These days, trips to a shopping center or government building come with the understanding that you’re most likely going to be photographed at some point by a surveillance camera.
But how about while mowing the lawn? Or riding a bike down the street? That’s becoming the case as surveillance cameras move from retail areas to residential neighborhoods.
Bakersfield police recently released surveillance footage of a suspected prowler in the 11000 block of Valley Forge Way in northwest Bakersfield. The footage came from a camera outside a resident’s house.
Local law enforcement said they don’t endorse any particular type of home security over another, and that it’s a personal decision. They did say, however, that cameras outside homes can sometimes assist in investigations.
The slow but steady increase of home surveillance camera installations represents a shift toward new technology that provides evidence if the homeowner is a victim of a crime. Such evidence may lead to an arrest and conviction.
Bakersfield police Sgt. Mary DeGeare said officers are starting to see surveillance cameras more often on private residences, but they’re still fairly new.
“I think it’s a good idea in that it’s a deterrent for a burglar and it’s helpful to us,” she said.
Kern County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Ray Pruitt said it’s up to each individual to decide whether to buy a surveillance camera or other security features. He said they can assist law enforcement in investigations where a suspect is caught on camera and a member of the public can identify the person.
The ACLU of Southern California did not respond to a request for comment about privacy issues regarding the cameras.
Tammy Lodermeier, vice president of Advanced Security Inc. in Bakersfield, said the business installs cameras on about 15 residences each month. That’s up from only one residence a month a couple of years ago.
“People know there’s value in those cameras,” Lodermeier said. “It’s a worthy investment.”
The purchase and installation of four cameras costs $2,800, Lodermeier said. The people buying them are often victims of theft or vandalism, she said.
San Joaquin Security Technologies manager Noel Cardenos said most residences he works on just want an alarm system because the cameras cost quite a bit more. But he said the interest in cameras has steadily increased over the past few years. Prices range from $1,400 for a very basic set of four cameras to $3,500 for the more sophisticated models.
Morgan Clayton, president and owner of Tel-Tec Security Systems Inc., a Bakersfield-based business with customers in a couple of dozen cities in California and Nevada, said a good system costs $8,000 to $20,000. He said he gets calls every day from homeowners asking about surveillance cameras, and the firm works on about 300 residential systems a year.
People want to be able to check on their homes even when they’re not there, and they can connect to their surveillance system through personal computers, PDAs and other electronic devices, Clayton said. No matter where a person is, they can access their system and know their home is safe.
Clayton associates the upswing in residential surveillance cameras — which really took off in the past couple of years — to the economy and social unrest.
“People just don’t have a good feel for being comfortable right now,” he said. “They want to protect their assets.”
The interest in cameras extends beyond Bakersfield.
Ted Loveder, general manager of The Bluffs Homeowners Association in Newport Beach, said he’s noticed some surveillance cameras on residences in the area. Not a major surge, but a couple of homes have them, he said.
Locally, homeowners offer a mix of views.
Michael Strahan, member and former vice president of Seven Oaks South of Chamber Homeowners Association, is considering putting up surveillance cameras because he lives near a park and a lot of juveniles pass through the area. He said crime in Bakersfield is out of control and the cameras could come in handy if his house is targeted.
He said surveillance cameras aren’t mentioned in the association’s regulations. Personally, he’d like the city to hire more police officers, but with the budget the way it is he’s not expecting that anytime soon.
“(Cameras) are just one more deterrent to give a family peace of mind,” Strahan said.
Alex Garza is considering buying some for her house. Garza, 27, lives in the area of Valley Forge Way where a suspected prowler was caught on tape.
“If something happens, I’ll have evidence of it,” she said.
Sandra Minero, 39, said she’s fine with neighbors installing cameras around their property, and she’s glad officers have the footage of the suspected prowler to work with.
Ryan Tiede, 30, also a Valley Forge Way resident, wasn’t sold on the usefulness of surveillance cameras since the prowler hadn’t yet been caught.
“I don’t really think they’re necessary,” he said.
But his view of surveillance cameras may be in the minority, from what Lodermeier says. She said it’s no longer people living in upscale neighborhoods who are buying cameras, but people from all areas.
“It’s the way of the future,” she said.