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Ask Slashdot: Inexpensive SOHO Crime Deterrence and Monitoring? 272

First time accepted submitter trellz writes "My sister and brother-in-law are self employed, and run a small business with a storefront. It was broken into about a year ago, and since then they have reinforced physical security; bars on the doors and windows, better locks, etc. Unfortunately, their store was broken into and vandalized again last week, in spite of the added security measures. Being technically savvy, I'm trying to come up with inexpensive ways to add deterrence, monitoring, and alerting to their business. They run an extremely lean lifestyle and profit margin, so the solution needs to be almost free. They do have an internet connection at the store, so motion detection, web cameras, Arduino devices, and the like are certainly an option. Ideally I would like a rock-solid alerting method. Something like an email or text to a laptop at home, or a dedicated prepaid phone, but without the pitfalls of such a solution (i.e. random wrong numbers, solicitors, email spam, etc). I'd also prefer not to poke holes in their firewall at the shop if at all possible. I was considering an email with some sort of long code or hash in the body, and then could white list that on the receiving end to key off of. The goal is to never have a false alarm based on the transmission/reception method." What advice, beyond ZoneMinder?
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Ask Slashdot: Inexpensive SOHO Crime Deterrence and Monitoring?

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  • by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @02:34AM (#42926173)
    Yeah, a good bar system should take longer to get through than anyone would be willing to commit. My first question was, "what do they have in there? Guns or drugs?" and the second is "what are the bars made of, rubber?"

    My vote is for a cheap $50 (or less) motion detector tied to a loud speaker. Nobody wants to rob a place so loud it hurts. You could set it up to send an email when triggered or such, but that's not going to make a huge difference in the robber's response. Unless the plan is to get a $200 cheap PVR/camera security combo so that they can catch people, rather than scare them off after they've done $1000 damage to windows and bars before running off.
  • webcamd on UNIX (Score:3, Informative)

    by kestasjk ( 933987 ) * on Sunday February 17, 2013 @02:50AM (#42926219) Homepage
    Hi, what you need is webcamd for a low powered machine with a cheap USB webcam (best to check the chipset compatibility before buying, just in case).

    There'll be a bit of manual page reading, setting the motion detection thresholds and areas, configuring it to start on boot, archive/FTP images taken, add timestamps to the images, etc, and writing the scripts that will get run when motion is detected, but it'll be cheap, customizable and it'll work.

    I've used this setup in a local maritime simulator where there was a breakin attempt (lots of projectors and electronics naturally), and they wanted a bit of extra security on the cheap.

  • by Runaway1956 ( 1322357 ) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @08:19AM (#42927041) Homepage Journal

    Dogs work well. But, housing and caring for dogs in a downtown business district can create a lot of headaches, too. Not to mention, that well trained security dogs are expensive, and poorly trained dogs are a liability. Be prepared to spend not less than twelve hours per week with a pair of dogs - time that many businessmen don't have.

    In short, I wouldn't recommend dogs to anyone who didn't
    A: think of it themselves
    B: actually likes dogs (preferably loves dogs)
    C: have a close by exercise yard
    D: have plenty of time to work with the dogs

  • by Culture20 ( 968837 ) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @08:42AM (#42927145)
    My friend, you just suggested a shotgun trap, which is illegal. Like premeditated-homicide illegal. Sure, the criminals were breaking into the store, but the difference between a trap pulling the trigger and a human is all it takes for the store owner to go to jail.
  • by tibit ( 1762298 ) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @10:53AM (#42927691)

    A camera? Now stop being silly. Go to a location that has presumedly similar layout to the one in question. Take a pic with your digital camera. Scale it down to NTSC resolution. That's the best case image you're going to get -- stuff from usual cameras used for monitoring looks much worse. Most security cameras are completely useless. You can barely tell between a human and a gorilla on most of the feeds that catch large areas. A small storefront may leave you with a bit better image than most, but it's still way too large area of an to cover if you want to see any faces. Other than recognizing faces, what's the point? I mean, you know there was a break-in, there's no reason to look at a video recording to confirm what's obvious. Either you get faces that are recognizable, or it's mostly useless.

    You've basically fallen for the security monitoring scam: people love it until they actually need to see the images and realize they are useless.

    To get good monitoring you need HD cameras, and plenty of them. For a small storefront monitoring, you may need coverage from two 1080p webcams. They are not exactly the most inexpensive of things. Alternatively, if you believe in a bit of luck, a digital photo camera taking timelapse pictures every second may also be likely to catch the faces. I'd go for one of the Canons where you can replace stock firmware with CHDK. You can then make it delete old pictures and keep new ones in round-robin fashion.

  • by trellz ( 1369477 ) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @03:03PM (#42929699)
    I'll try and answer some of the general questions I've seen here. It is a tattoo studio, they used bolt cutters to open the locked rear gate to the courtyard, bolt cutters on the back security door, and then battered the metal door down. They stole thousands in tattoo equipment and inks, and even his portfolio, but left the computer. This is a similar MO to last time, and it does seem personal(though I have no idea as to why). It's in a small town, so that area is just vacant during the nights, and the back courtyard is hidden completely. Other measures to secure things will be taken, like a safe, etc. This is family, so I'm just trying to do whatever I can to help. They've been in business for 15+ years and enjoy being self employed. The alerting them at home would be the last preferred method. In my opinion it's best to deter (through visible security means), prevent (through physical security and restricted access), to alarm (loud audible), and then finally alert (through some means), so that at the very least they could hop in their car and drive past.

Perfection is acheived only on the point of collapse. - C. N. Parkinson