AUSTIN (KXAN) - Joe Reynolds loves testing technology. Several months ago, the retired computer scientist started hooking up security cameras around the house to catch the bad guys breaking into cars around his Allandale neighborhood.
But when someone drove by his neighbor's house recently with a BB gun and shot out $8,000 worth of windows, Reynolds decided it was time to try something new.
"Here's the infrared flashlight. Here's the camera lens, and this is the motion detector right here," said Reynolds, showing off a unique-looking camera he bought in the hunting department at Academy Sports.
It was $70 and designed to capture wildlife. It is often called a "game camera" because hunters set them up near deer feeders. Activated by movement and body heat, they run off batteries.
"The cameras have a delay to let the deer get fully in view before it takes the picture, and then they delay so they don't keep taking pictures of the same deer," said Reynolds. "Well, that's not the motion you get with some guy running up to check your car doors. You would, in fact, miss everything."
So Reynolds ran several experiments on people and cars using a five-second delay. He mounted the camera above the driveway and in the yard and pointed it toward the street.
He was pleased with the clear pictures of people and parked cars, but he figured out he needed more than five megapixels to capture license plates on cars passing by.
Reynolds had to reposition the camera several times after tree limbs and reflections on his car windows triggered the camera all day and drained the batteries.
It's advice Keith Hamblin tells customers at Cabela's, where there are lots of cameras to choose from. Some shoot pictures and video.
The retired law enforcement officer knows which features could come in handy for police.
"If I was the cop responding to your theft of your stolen wheels and you handed me this card, that would be a question I would ask, 'Does it have audio?' Because chances are they're talking to each other and calling each other by their names," said Hamblin.
More and more people are buying game cameras for home security. A professional system could set a family back several thousand dollars.
"These are much cheaper. They're user friendly. I mean, you can set them up in five minutes," said Hamblin.
He said 20- to 30 percent of the cameras they sell at the Buda store are for fighting crime.
Reynolds hopes his small investment will pay off.
"If it helps find out who it is that's breaking into cars, it's money well-spent," said Reynolds. "If not, then it's just a project that a retired guy got into and it keeps me off the street and having fun for a while."
Tips for using a game camera to fight crime
- Get the shortest delay you can find, under five seconds
- Test out in different spots
- Check batteries and pictures on SD card periodically
- Audio is recommended on cameras that shoot video
- Program correct time and date into camera
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