The great outdoors are havens for more than just folks wanting a break from the grind. With minimal risk of detection, criminal acts are common on both private and public lands. Out of sight and out of mind, criminals will illegally dump trash, dispose of dangerous chemicals, vandalize property, poach, manufacture drugs, cultivate illegal crops, commit acts of violence, and more.
Unfortunately, these crimes are not on the decline - and have traditionally been very difficult to solve… sometimes impossible. Because these areas are so remote, they are extremely difficult to patrol, and there are often no witnesses and little to no evidence. Even when criminals are observed, their presence usually appears benign and is overlooked. Due to the infrequent nature of the crimes and cost of manpower, patrol activities are quickly abandoned - if initiated at all.
Fortunately, affordable video surveillance technology is giving law enforcement better means and methods to give criminals cause for concern. These off-the-shelf tools are easy to deploy, remain concealed even just feet away from suspects, can alert law enforcement when activity occurs and can remain in operation for days, weeks or longer. These tools are available in component form, allowing law enforcement to build their own systems, or ready-made for same day deployment.
Whether pre-built, or building on your own, when developing an effective , these are the most important elements to consider:
The single biggest difference between the needs of rural surveillance and other forms of surveillance activities is power. In a house, car, hotel, business, or even street, power is readily available. For rural surveillance, batteries are typically the only option. That being the case, there are several things that can be done to make use of every last drop of battery power.
First, selecting the proper battery is a must. One of the oldest types of battery technology also happens to be the best. That battery type is SLA, otherwise known as sealed-lead-acid battery. SLA batteries have a great shelf life and can hold a charge for months, whereas other batteries (like lithium) dissipate charges quickly - sometimes in just weeks. Also, SLA batteries are very resistant to extreme temperatures - both hot and cold.
To get the most out of any battery, it’s always recommended to employ some type of motion sensor that will turn amp hungry surveillance gear on and off as necessary. Very importantly, surveillance gear combined with sensors and relays need to have a power-up-record feature. Otherwise the gear will need to be powered 24/7.
When even the best battery, sensor and relay combinations are not enough, solar panels can be used to supplement … but not your ordinary panels. Advanced solar panels can now be camouflaged and are available in flexible designs. These panels can be wrapped around the trunks or limbs of trees. Because they are camouflaged and can be positioned above normal field of view, they are extremely difficult to detect.
Keep in mind, because these panels will not have complete exposure to the sun, in many cases they will only be serving as a supplement. Although they will not typically provide enough power for indefinite operation, they will usually add several days and sometimes months to run time.
Weather: Beware Mother Nature
Without proper protection, high tech surveillance gear is no match for mother nature. Moisture of any form is your worst enemy. This includes rain, of course — but simple humidity is enough to corrode exposed circuitry. Whenever gear is placed inside of concealments, this must always be considered.
Additionally, If silicone based adhesives will be used to seal disguises against weather, always ensure the silicone never comes in direct contact with circuitry - as it is conducts electricity. Just before sealing disguises, a good measure is to drop in a desiccant pack to absorb remaining moisture.
Heat is another weather element to be mindful of - especially if DVRs with traditional hard drives will be used. Always allow for some type of air exchange / ventilation to keep your recorder at peak operation.
Your camera, of course, must be carefully selected to weather the environment of your application. An effective camera option for many applications is a small weatherproof bullet camera. There are many options available that measure just ¾ of an inch in diameter. Simply tucked in the fork of a tree, these cameras can be near impossible for suspects to spot.
In many urban applications, ambient light is available that aids low light cameras. This is not the case for most rural applications. No matter how low of a lux a camera has, pitch dark is just that … pitch dark. If that’s the case for your application, infrared illumination used in tandem with low light cameras is the way to go.
When selecting infrared, be sure to use frequencies at 940 nm and above. Anything below will produce a red glow and of course give away the concealment when its most needed.
Another point of concern with infrared illumination is power. IR illuminators are power hogs and most mid range units will draw at least 500 milliamps. Here again, to counter this, sensor and relays should be used to engage illumination only when necessary.
Security of Equipment and Operators
When using rural surveillance devices, security of both the user and gear should be top of mind.
When performing installations, a highly recommend piece of gear is a one inch installation monitor. These little monitors help to minimize equipment load – which can be substantial for remote applications. Additionally, the eyepiece is surrounded by a rubber ring, which cups the eye and prevents suspects from potentially seeing the light from the monitor. Even during daylight installations, this same eyepiece also helps keep the sun out so that users can perfectly orientate cameras.
When possible, it’s best to keep cameras and recorders separate and connected together by wireless means only. When arranged in this manner, even if a suspect detects a camera they will be hard pressed to find the recorder which maintains security of the crucial evidence.
Retrieval of Evidence
Operational security also extends to retrieval of evidence. Each time users need to go back to check whether or not activity has occurred, the risk of detection multiplies. To help minimize the risk there are a few tactics that will help.
First, it is possible to eliminate the need to go onsite to retrieve evidence or to check on activity - by use of CDMA-equipped DVRs. DVRs such as the Supercircuits are capable of transmitting live and previously recorded video via CDMA (Sprint & Verizon Wireless Data). The sole drawback to using this feature is that the DVR will need to be powered constantly in order to provide the ability to remote in via the internet.
A great compromise is using a GSM transmitter that will blast SMS text notification when activity occurs. A ready to use unit with this capability is the Supercircuits GVS1. The GVS1 is a self contained piece that uses a seismic sensor to detect movement, connects to cellular networks using any prepaid SIM card and can remain on standby up to 4 weeks without supplementary power. Having this notification will alert users to the best time to go onsite and check recorders for evidence or initiate real-time intervention.
If retrieving evidence means recovering the entire system - including disguises, a good tactic is to replace it with an identical disguise that is a mere shell. This will help maintain integrity of the concealment and not alert suspects to any changes.
Many agencies in need of rural surveillance gear opt for getting a “purpose-built system.” These systems come in variety of shapes, sizes and all components are properly matched for reliable operation.
A popular option is the SC7001, which a self contained system that can be put to work the very day it’s received. Like other purpose built systems for field surveillance, the SC7001 comes with all the required features, is formatted for simplistic operation, and is self contained in a singular package. The SC7001 is weatherproof and can be buried at multiple depths to match regional terrain.
Other options include items like the and — that are again self-contained but are not built into a disguise. Instead they allow users to position cameras as the situation dictates.
I certainly hope that this blog is of assistance to you. If you need further guidance or would like to share a comment or suggestion, please send us an email.