Video doorbell system could curb residential burglaries, officials say

In an ongoing battle against residential burglaries, La Cañada public safety officials are now considering forming a partnership with a video doorbell company that would potentially put the power of prevention directly into homeowner's hands.

The idea of teaming up with Santa Monica-based company Ring to offer rebates toward the purchase of Wi-Fi-enabled video doorbell systems was put before the La Cañada Public Safety Commission in a Feb. 13 meeting.

Sgt. John Gaw of the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department's Advanced Surveillance and Protection Unit was asked to speak to commissioners about the effectiveness of using Automated License Plate Reader (ALPR) cameras — which automatically track and store car license plate numbers — to prevent home break-ins.

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The city currently uses two such devices, installed on patrol cars used by the Crescenta Valley Sheriff's Station at about $21,150 apiece. While the technology is helpful to investigators looking to break crime rings and spot vehicle owners who may have open warrants, it's not as effective at keeping burglars away.

"Weighing how much the cameras cost and what they can really do for you, it's not necessarily the best way to prevent burglaries," Gaw said. "There are a lot better options out there."

A more cost-efficient way of chasing off would-be criminals, he suggested, is a video doorbell system that sends camera footage directly to homeowners' cellphones whenever motion is detected in the area of installment.

The technology lets users not only see a potential suspect, but allows them to verbally "answer" the door from wherever they are. Oftentimes, the sergeant told commissioners, that verbal cue is enough to prevent burglars from going any further.

"It's a cheap camera to put up there to potentially stop them from stealing your goods," Gaw said. "That's the goal."

Founded in 2012 by inventor Jamie Siminoff, Ring describes its technology as "caller ID for the front door." The company is currently beta-testing a neighborhood program that lets residents share footage they capture with others within a specified radius of their home.

In one such test, burglaries in Los Angeles' Wilshire Park neighborhood were reduced by 55% in six months, Gaw reported.

The sergeant said the company also offers discounts to homeowner associations and neighborhood watch groups. Partnering with municipalities, Ring will offer $50 rebates if cities agree to match it with their own $50 rebates. A basic video doorbell system costs about $200, according to the company's website.

Impressed by the units' affordability, and their ability to involve homeowners more directly in crime prevention, commissioners asked city staff to look into partnering with Ring or a similar company in a pilot program.

The panel also requested statistics on how Automatic License Plate Reader cameras have helped investigators solve La Cañada crimes thus far, exploring the option of adding one more to the city's arsenal.

"What the residents have expressed is a frustration over burglaries and the rising number of larcenies," Commission Chair Marilyn Smith said. "If the Ring is a way to address that and empower people to try and stop it, perfect."

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Sara Cardine, sara.cardine@latimes.com

Twitter: @SaraCardine

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