Curbing Vehicle Burglaries – Lights, Camera…Audio! July 16, 2017

Curbing Vehicle Burglaries – Lights, Camera…Audio!

A quick survey of your favorite search engine indicates that burglary of motor vehicles (BMV) is wide spread and epidemic across this nation. Airbag thefts alone occur 75,000 times annually according to a November 2016 report by the Insurance Information Institute (III). Dealer replacement airbags cost on average $1,000 and off-market units cost between $50 and $200, ultimately costing our nation $50 million dollars every year.

Making matters worse, in summer months victims are leaving windows lowered. Of course that’s a grand invitation for crooks to grab a purse, laptop, or shopping bag full of merchandise. Just as the weather starts to cool, we’ll have another wave of BMVs brought on by the holiday shopping season.

 burglary of motor vehicles

Bait Vehicles

Tackling the problem should of course be a multi-pronged approach through raising community awareness, visible patrols, and bait vehicle operations. Setting up bait vehicles will aid your agency in not only curbing BMV, but it can also lead to solving many other related crimes.

Typically when the name bait car is mentioned, it invokes thoughts of a complicated operation and vehicles with costly surveillance systems designed for auto-theft. However, a basic bait car for BMV operations can be set up in mere minutes with minimal expense.

 covert video coffee mug camera

Easy, Simple and Affordable

The ease in setting up a basic car is all thanks to advancement in covert video gear. Nowadays, what used to take up an entire Pelican case will fit in the palm of your hand, and produce higher quality evidence. An excellent example is the HD covert coffee mug camera that is right at home in any car’s cup holder. In the case of the coffee mug, it’s completely self-contained with its own power source, camera and microphone. Just position it in place and it will record HD video continuously up to 3 hours.

In addition to the coffee mug, there are many other great covert video choices that some might overlook, such as a covert hat camera. Granted, covert hat cameras are typically used for body worn ops…but they’re perfect for being placed in the rear window deck of a car for a full cabin view, or placed on the dashboard to capture folks stealing Xenon bulbs from the front of the vehicle. Thereto, the hat cam is completely self-contained and no wiring needed. Alongside the hat cam, other choices that still keep things simple are a covert keyfob camera, pen camera, and iphone sleeve camera.
To expand capabilities into the night, infrared (IR) illumination should be used in conjunction with covert video gear. Specifically, IR illuminators should have the frequency of 940nM which doesn’t produce the red glow common to security type illuminators. Along with the cameras, installing IR illumination can be done in minutes with off-the-shelf gear such as the illuminator pictured above that’s disguised as an air fresher.


Keeping a Close Eye

live surveillance for auto theft

Digital Binoculars
Granted, well placed covert video cameras and IR illuminators are going to deliver irrefutable footage of the BMV act, and a wonderful mug shot…but you still have to keep eyes on the car to catch your guy. To that, the new favorite tool are digital day/night vision binoculars with WiFi such as the ATN Binox. With the high tech WiFi capability, binoculars can be laid on the dashboard of the monitoring vehicle to minimize chances of detection. Meanwhile, live video from the binoculars can be viewed and controlled via a smartphone or tablet. Along with a live view, binoculars such as the binox can record everything viewed in the form of HD footage, or a high res still image.

Live Cellular Feed
Most of the covert video products offered has built-in WiFi capability for close range monitoring, 50 to 300’. Fortunately, many of these covert video cameras such as the MAXSUR hat camera, keyfob, Nimbus vape camera, etc…have the ability for world-wide monitoring when used in conjunction with WiFi hotspots. With a hotspot placed inside the bait vehicle, live video feeds from multiple cameras can be watched from across the parking lot, across town, or around the world. This arrangement gives you the power of live monitoring without the hassle of installation, and if need be…the gear can be placed in a new bait car in a matter of minutes.

covert video for bmv
Advanced Systems
For agencies desiring continual BMV enforcement, building a bait vehicle is in order. A properly built bait vehicle will save time by having all surveillance equipment already installed and ready-to-go. Additionally, a bait vehicle built for BMV can also be adapted for auto theft enforcement, drug buys, drop cars and any other investigation where covertly recording inside of a vehicle is key.

Depending upon the gear selected, building a bait vehicle can cost anywhere from $1,500 to $3,500. There are no specific surveillance gear recommendations for building bait cars, as each car is different and may call for specialized equipment. However, the general favorites are pinhole cameras with conical shaped pinhole lenses, high gain line level mics, and mobile DVRs with cellular backhaul capability.

bmv covert video
Similar to the surveillance gear itself, there are no specific recommendations on where in the vehicle gear should be installed. However, there are some general guidelines:
1. Safety First – Careful consideration should be given when installing surveillance gear into a vehicle so that safety equipment is not comprised. For instance, a favorite place to install cameras is in the vehicles A pillar…but many newer vehicles also have airbag systems there as well.
2. The Correct View – Obviously, cameras should be installed to where a proper field of view of the criminal act can be obtained. In many cases though, you may need to install upwards of three cameras to record the full criminal act of entrance, search and theft.
3. Independent Power – A common mistake made with bait vehicles is harnessing the vehicles power, after all…most vehicles provides 12 volts and most surveillance gear uses 12 volts. However, using vehicle power for surveillance gear poses the problem of drained batteries, and vehicle startup voltage spikes will damage surveillance gear. The solve is to include a small auxiliary battery that is charged by the cars power system, and in turn provides power to the gear.


Turn Key Systems

As an alternative to using off the shelf covert video devices or building your own bait vehicle, there are turn-key solutions available. Vendors such as MAXSUR provide bait cars that are already built and ready for immediate deployment. As with other vendors, the MAXSUR team provides several technology and purchasing options from selling the entire car, to installing the covert video equipment in a car that agency owns.


Additional Resources

Especially if your agency is interested in starting a BMV program, these resources will come in handy. Each of them will give you proven resources to minimize cost,
complexity, and maximize effectiveness.

IAATI – International Association of Auto Theft Investigators. As the name implies, these guys are the experts in auto theft enforcement and many of their members also conduct BMV operations. Along with being an international organization, there are many state chapters that provide excellent training and workshops.

NICB – National Insurance Crime Bureau. Having vested interest in curbing crime, NICB has become an excellent resource to law enforcement for many property related crimes including BMV. To aid law enforcement, the NICB has a staff of law enforcement liaisons that provide training and can help coordinate the acquisition of bait vehicles. Available at any time, NICB also offers online law enforcement training.

MAXSUR – Along with selling the gear, the MAXSUR team is excellent resource for information. Our team members have built in deployed cars for agencies across this nation to include LAPD, Dallas PD, and Illinois State Police.

Thanks for reading, and I hope this article has been of assistance to you and your team. Upcoming articles will include indepth details on how to build your own bait car. In the meantime, please sound off with comments or questions. We’re easy to reach at or by calling, 1-855-778-6565

Best regards,

Jake Lahmann

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