Exterior Home Security

Does Having Security Cameras Really Deter Crime? We Asked an Expert for a Definitive Answer

Not only do security cameras deter crime, but they’re an excellent way to monitor your property while away from home. Here’s a closer look at these useful gadgets.
Do Security Cameras Deter Crime

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Q: My husband and I recently moved from an apartment to a single-family home, and we’re a bit concerned about safety. We’re thinking about having a security system installed, but we’re trying to decide what types of devices to choose. Do security cameras deter crime, or are they less effective than motion detectors and entry sensors at keeping intruders at bay?

A: It’s certainly not uncommon to be worried about safety in your new home. Even homes in the safest neighborhoods can be victims of break-ins, and having an intruder in your home is a violation of your privacy and safety. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), there were over 1 million reported burglaries in 2019 (the most recent year for which data exists). Victims of these events have lost an estimated $3 billion in assets, with the average crime resulting in over $2,500 in lost goods. When you move into your own home, the last thing you want is to be a victim of home invasion.

Adding security cameras to your property is a great first step in staying safe. Not only will installing security cameras help catch intruders on film for you to show to the authorities, but it may even deter intruders from targeting your home in the first place. Researchers from the University of North Carolina (UNC) Charlotte spoke with over 400 convicted offenders to learn more about what motivates them and what deters them. They learned that 83 percent would check for the presence of a home alarm system (including cameras, alarm, signs, or other surveillance equipment) before breaking into a home. And 60 percent of those surveyed said they would look for an alternative target if they found any signs of a security system.

That means installing safety cameras for your home (and the included security sign) is an excellent way to deter burglars and keep your home undisturbed by unwanted visitors. Security cameras are even more beneficial when used as part of one of the best home security systems, like one from Vivint, ADT, or SimpliSafe.

James Koskela, founder and managing member of Zero Day Gear, a Holly, Michigan-based retailer of bump keys, lock picks, and security products, agrees. “Visible outdoor security cameras demonstrate that the homeowner takes security protections seriously,” he says. “Burglars know that the camera is only one component of security and will wonder what other security measures has the homeowner undertaken to improve security. Visible security cameras demonstrate to potential intruders that this house is more risk than it’s worth.”

There’s a lot to unpack when it comes to security cameras, so it’s important to take a closer look at these useful devices to see if cameras are effective and how they can best protect your belongings and keep your home’s occupants safer.

Do Security Cameras Deter Crime
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Visible and well-maintained security cameras tell would-be intruders that they’re being watched, which can make them reconsider targeting your house.

Are surveillance cameras effective? If an intruder spots security cameras on a home, they’re less likely to try to break in. It sounds like common sense, and it’s backed up by the UNC Charlotte study, as well as others. The Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) reports that more than 600 U.S. law enforcement agencies partnered with home security company Ring to develop networks of doorbell cameras in an attempt to deter crime. And it’s working; in an upscale neighborhood in Redlands County, California, there was a 55 percent reduction in burglaries after the installation of Ring doorbell cameras on area homes. This statistic suggests that even the presence of a security camera can make intruders think twice about breaking into a home.

Homeowners can make use of this information by ensuring their security cameras are easily visible to intruders, yet not easy to reach or tamper with. It’s also important for the homeowner to keep their cameras properly maintained so unwanted visitors know they are operable and recording.

Customers will want to consider placing security cameras in several key locations, ensuring burglars spot them near all key entrances to the home. The best place to install security cameras tends to be near windows, doors, and other primary entry points, so shoppers will want to take a mental inventory of the most vulnerable parts of their homes and ensure cameras are placed nearby.

The presence of a security camera also lets intruders know that the home likely has other types of security devices, such as entry sensors and motion detectors, which can act as an additional deterrent.

Security cameras are great crime deterrents, as they tell burglars they’re on film. Security cameras are often enough to dissuade even the most tenacious criminal, but that’s not the only reason they’re compelling purchases for shoppers.

Along with serving as the first line of defense, security cameras can tell intruders that there may be other security devices installed throughout the home. Products such as motion sensors and entry sensors are much cheaper than security cameras, so if a homeowner is willing to install cameras, there’s a good chance they’ve also installed other security equipment. Bypassing a security camera is difficult enough on its own, but when a camera is coupled with these secondary devices, many intruders will decide it’s not worth the risk.

Customers will also want to consider how they want to install their system. Professional security camera installation costs will be higher than DIY installation costs, but many homeowners will find professional installation to be a worthwhile investment to ensure the cameras are installed properly and in the best locations. Tech-savvy homeowners can also look into how to install security cameras on their own, as some are DIY-friendly and don’t require expensive tools or complicated instructions to install.

Do Security Cameras Deter Crime
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Some security cameras have built-in sirens and speakers to act as an additional deterrent.

Just the sight of a security camera is often enough to deter would-be intruders. However, there are many types of security cameras, and some are now being designed with built-in sirens, allowing owners to trigger an audible home intruder alarm for added protection.

These alarms work in a few ways. For one, they can be manually triggered. When motion is detected by the security camera, it typically sends a motion alert to the connected mobile app. From here, users can dive into the app and trigger the siren manually.

Other security cameras let users set up automatic siren triggers. Unlike the manual triggers mentioned above, these siren alerts will ring out automatically when specific events are detected. The Arlo Pro 3 Floodlight, for example, can automatically activate its siren if either motion or audio is detected. While this is great for scaring off intruders, it can also be annoying to neighbors if inadvertently triggered. Customers will want to pay careful attention when enabling this feature and ensure it’s calibrated properly to prevent any issues while they’re away from home.

Security cameras are most effective when equipped with night vision.

Burglaries happen in broad daylight and under the glow of the moon, meaning night vision is all but a necessity. Cameras that can’t film in the dark are essentially useless for half the day (unless they’re paired with external lights).

Thankfully, nearly all modern security cameras are equipped with night vision. Products handle night vision differently, however, with some offering only black-and-white footage and others filming in color. Both are perfectly acceptable for home security. What’s most important is that the footage is crisp and clear, making it easy for users to interpret the footage.

Another key feature for night vision is HDR. This improves a camera’s ability to film in low-light and high-light conditions, though it’s often only available on expensive products such as the Arlo Ultra. For homes with security concerns, it’s a worthwhile investment that will likely last for several years before needing a replacement. The best outdoor security cameras are always a wise investment, offering premium features and reliable performance that’ll continue working in all sorts of weather conditions to help keep properties safe.

Criminals may be more easily scared by a loud noise or bright light, such as a motion sensor connected to a loud alarm or a floodlight.

One of the many goals of a security system is to bring attention to a property and let intruders know they’re not operating in a vacuum. Sneaking into a dark backyard or a home away from neighbors might give them a false sense of confidence. That makes it important to pair security cameras with devices that let strangers know they’re being watched—a task that’s easily accomplished with alarm burglar systems and floodlights.

Alarms and sirens—like the one built into the Arlo Ultra—work as a way to draw attention to a home. If a loud noise is going off, neighbors and passersby will be curious as to what’s going on. That could lead them to wander onto the property and spot the intruder. Attention is the last thing a home invader wants, and if a siren starts going off, there’s a good chance they’ll retreat.

The same goes for floodlights. If a floodlight is activated, it could indicate to a burglar that the property is being actively monitored. It also reveals their location and clothing, making it easier to identify them. In short, any sort of outdoor security alarm that lets a burglar know the home is being monitored will help prevent a break-in, making alarms a great companion for security cameras.

Do Security Cameras Deter Crime
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Some criminals may see security cameras on a home as a sign that there’s something of value inside to steal; in this case, the presence of the cameras alone may not deter the criminal.

Outdoor home security systems are capable of deterring unwanted guests, but they’re not effective all the time. In fact, some criminals might see security cameras as a reason to burglarize a home, thinking there must be something inside that’s worth protecting.

Of course, this isn’t a common occurrence. According to the study from UNC Charlotte, only 13 percent of burglars said they would “always continue” with a burglary attempt if they spot a security system. That means homes with security cameras are much safer than homes without them—even if there’s the risk that a handful of burglars will be emboldened by their presence.

However, it’s important to not rely on security cameras alone to keep a home safe. Families will want to ensure they’re locking windows and doors, closing their garage, and keeping their valuables locked away in a safe in the event an intruder bypasses all the security alarms for the home and makes their way inside. Shoppers unsure of where to start will want to consider researching what to look for in a home security camera system to best protect their valuables.

Security cameras may provide useful footage to law enforcement when investigating a break-in.

Regardless of how well a property is monitored, there’s always the chance an intruder will still attempt a break-in. In this case, security cameras are still important, as they’ll capture footage that can be shown to law enforcement to help locate the criminal.

Security cameras and video doorbells always give users an easy way to share footage. Whether this is through a smartphone app, microSD card, or other method, it’s never difficult to get footage into the hands of someone who can help track down the intruder. Without a security camera, there’s nothing a homeowner can do, and they’ll be left hoping the intruder gets caught for another crime.

Many products include a community feature with their companion smartphone apps, allowing customers to chat with neighbors and stay apprised of the events in their neighborhood. Along with showing footage to the authorities, burglarized households may want to consider sharing the footage with their community to see if anyone recognized the person caught on film. Shoppers will also want to consider how many security cameras they need to properly protect their homes, ensuring they can capture all entry angles and provide useful footage to law enforcement.

Do Security Cameras Deter Crime
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A home security camera system that has professional monitoring will alert the authorities if an intruder is detected.

Households looking to make the most of their security cameras may want to pair them with a professional monitoring service. These services come with monthly fees, but professional monitoring ensures an expert is always there to respond if an alarm is triggered.

If a security camera is connected to a professional monitoring service, any alerts will be immediately sent to a dispatch service. From here, the technician can call the authorities to assist at the household—some products even let the technician intervene and use the camera as an intercom to talk to the intruder.

Professional monitoring systems are offered by most companies producing security cameras. Shoppers will want to pay close attention to this feature before making a purchase, as purchasing a security camera without a monitoring service means they’ll need to purchase an entirely new camera if they want to enjoy the feature. Shoppers will also want to factor the cost of monthly fees into the total expense, as these ongoing payments can quickly add up. However, homeowners may be eligible for a home insurance discount for security systems if they opt for professional monitoring, and this discount can help offset the subscription cost.

A comprehensive home security system is the best way to deter crime and protect your home from burglars.

Security cameras are an excellent deterrent for criminals, with many intruders turning around the moment they’re spotted. However, security cameras work best when part of a robust security system that includes alarms, motion detectors, and entry sensors. Even installing security signs can deter crime.

“In Michigan, where we’re headquartered and most familiar with, unless a ‘no trespassing’ sign has been installed at all possible entry points of a property, an intruder can legally wonder private property,” explains Koskela. “It only becomes a criminal matter after a trespass warning has been issued, or, if signs are already in place and then ignored. If the property is more open without a fence to secure the permitter, I recommend installing signs clearly stating ‘no trespassing’ and that cameras are in use.”

A home with a variety of security devices makes it difficult for would-be intruders to avoid detection. For example, a home with exterior floodlights, entry sensors, indoor security cameras, and motion detectors makes it much harder for an intruder to remain undetected than a home with just a few external cameras. There’s a good chance the presence of security cameras will scare away intruders, but an entire home outfitted with security gear is the safer option.

“While it’s true [a video security system] will help deter some less determined criminals and enable investigation after the fact, [it] can’t stop a determined individual or someone that simply doesn’t care about consequences,” says Koskela. “For the post break-in investigation it’s important to first simulate an intruder to know how your system responds. A few items to test: walk around your property in different lighting scenarios and check the recorded footage. Could you identify yourself? Is your picture blurry? Is there ample light? Is an additional outdoor light necessary? You don’t want to find out that your camera is set to the wrong mode at night and all recordings are blurry during your post-crime investigation.”

So—do cameras deter crime? In general, the answer is a resounding “yes.” At the very least, outdoor security cameras will capture important footage that may be able to help track down the perpetrator and recover any stolen items. The best home security systems include everything customers need to protect their homes, and since packages are available for all budgets and home sizes, there’s bound to be an option for everyone.