Tag Archives: crime

Home Security – Fall Safety Tips to Keep You and Your Family Safe

The fall season is a time when we are tempted to sleep with open windows. Who doesn’t like that crisp, autumn air and a chance to turn off our air-conditioners? Unfortunately, open windows pose a security risk.

Recent news stories have covered several home invasions in the city of Chicago. These invasions took place in what are typically known as quiet, safe neighborhoods. Burglars entered through open windows. Fortunately, burglars (who were entering between the hours of 3:00 a.m. – 6:00 a.m.) haven’t thus far awakened those sleeping in the homes. They stole valuables, but no one was faced with the unknown of what could happen if a burglar is caught in the act.

There are many ways to keep your home and family safe that won’t break the bank. When you think of the money we all spend on unnecesary items, I think it’s safe to say securing your safety is worth the investment.

For starters, statistics show that burglars will avoid homes that are well lit, have alarm systems and surveillance cameras. Invest in some lights for the outside of your home. You can install lights that remain on at all times or motion detector lights. The one I’ve linked here comes on when someone crosses its path and then begins to record/film the area. U-Spy Store carries many affordable home alarms systems that don’t require monthly monitoring fees. If burglars see any of these protection devices, they will choose another home that isn’t protected and prepared.

Consider installing indoor motion detectors. We even carry a motion detector that is “pet immune” for pets weighing up to 60 lbs. Place wireless motion alert alarms in your driveway or near your garage. If an intruder is on your property, these detectors will set off alarms.

You can also install “glass break alarms” on your windows or sliding glass doors. If you must sleep with an open window, there are products that will allow your window to remain open, but allow you to lock the window in a position that prevents it from being opened further. However, for added security, I would install the glass break alarms I mentioned above.

Lastly, keep your cell phone near your bed while sleeping. If any of the products you may decide to purchase have remotes with panic buttons, keep them near your bed. They won’t do you any good if you can’t access them immediately. I also keep pepper spray next to my bed. Although I hope to never be a victim of a crime, I do know I will be prepared to defend myself if someone enters my home.

Child Pornography Investigation Stems from Alert Customer

Tanning salon owner Joseph Layland was a friend to many of his customers until  charged with using a hidden camera to record customers in the Malden, Missouri tanning spot. Formerly “DJ’s Tan and Tone” has closed while the owner waits for trial in jail and police investigate.

Local TV site KFVS reported that police officials seized approximately 500 DVDs and videos, 18-hours of surveillance footage, and two computer hard drives as evidence in what is likely to be the Show Me State’s largest pornography crime. Continue reading

Hidden Camera Catches Abuse by Babysitter

A young father, wondering why his toddler behaved perfectly around the babysitter but no one else, learned the reason was fear. The man, from Joliet, set up a hidden camera to capture the sitter’s interaction with the child later watched in shock as the woman–a family friend–used physical force to keep the child in tow. According to NBC Chicago, the father, Paul Carlos, stated, “It was the most amazing thing I ever saw in my life. It was horrible.”

The camera, disguised as a clock radio, was triggered by a motion sensor. The sitter was caught beating the 2-year-old boy because she couldn’t find the TV remote control. The sitter, Erin Denny, actually lived with Carlos’s mother. She’s been arrested and jailed on felony aggravated batter charges and parole violation.

When Carlos went to work each day, he would drop his son off at his mom’s house on the way to work. Denny would watch the boy. Carlos installed the hidden camera because he thought it was strange that the boy listened to the sitter, but didn’t listen to anyone else.

It was out of fear.

Hidden cameras, or “nanny cams” have been employed to catch suspected cases of babysitter abuse, theft, and other criminal activities. Some, like the one used by Mr. Carlos, capture video footage for later viewing. Others provide real-time footage that can be accessed from any computer–even while a parent is working.

Illegal “Dumpers” Caught with Video Surveillance

In Springfield, Mass.,  police announced that 13 people had been caught dumping household trash and furniture in a wooded area near town. The alleged illegal dumpers were recorded by hidden camera detectors placed near the area in an investigation that included aid from both state, and local officials. This, according to the Springfield Republican. Continue reading

Words from the Boss: Cloned Debit Cards Add to ATM Thefts

Technology makes our lives easier, or at least it’s supposed to; yet, as our understanding  improves and complicated processes, such as computer programming, become more user-friendly,  some decide to use these innovations to prey upon others.

ATM skimming-devices, for instance, have evolved from clunky, obvious pieces of fake auto-bank teller equipment to sleek, undetectable theft devices that are unnoticeable to untrained eyes. As the equipment becomes better, the criminals grow in sophistication, often stealing hundreds of thousands in others’ money before being discovered. Continue reading

Hidden Camera Exposes Illegal Dentists

Going to the dentist isn’t something that we usually scrutinize to ensure our chosen practitioner has the necessary schooling and degrees that prove he’s a dentist. Usually, we opt for doctors or dentists who are recommended by our social circle, or, more likely, the ones covered by an insurance plan. Usually, the expectation is that they’re qualified; after all, masquerading as a dentist wouldn’t be the easiest scam to perpetrate.

In San Antonio, WOAI-TV News 4 recently published a news story by Jaie Avila using a hidden camera that might be surprising… Continue reading

Bank ATM “Skimmer” Busted

Romanian citizen Razvan Apostal, staying in Queens on a Visa was arrested near  Rye Brook, NY, last month for using an ATM “skimmer” to steal personal ATM card information. He also installed video surveillance cameras above ATM machines in order to steal Personal Identification Numbers (PINs).

An ATM skimming device, or skimmer, is a device that covers the ATM card slot that reads the information on the magnetic card strip, plus, depending on the device, may record the PIN as well. For less-sophisticated skimmers, a camera can be installed to capture the PIN.

Depending on the ATM, and the crook’s knowledge of their workings, skimmers can be absurdly obvious or nearly impossible to detect.

The 31-year-old’s crimes were brought to light after a banking customer notified Chase Bank that an additional security camera had been installed above the ATM machines, allegedly aimed at the user interface portion of the machine. Chase Bank authorities notified local police. After viewing surveillance footage on the camera, Mr. Apostal was identified as the suspect.

A week later, another local ATM was found with a camera installed in the same general location.

Police searched for–then arrested–Apostal for placing a skimming device, the cameras, and a mirror at several local area ATMs. When arrested, he had the skimming device in his possession. Police discovered counterfeit $100 bills when a search of the man’s property was initiated.

Apostal is in jail awaiting trial. He’s being charged for eight counts criminal possession of forged instruments and one count of unlawful possession of a skimming device.

GPS Application Leads Police to Thieves

A recent rash of New Hampshire thefts caused police to investigate and warn the public not to leave valuable items inside vehicles parked in the state’s national park areas–especially at trail heads. U.S. Forest Service agents also cautioned visitors to lock their cars.

A recent investigation was launched after thieves smashed car windows to get into vehicles, stealing electronics and cash.

Unfortunately for the unwitting criminals, police were able to track down them down within hours due to quick action stemming from a victim’s GPS application on his cell phone. Most of these smash-and-grab type cases go unsolved, especially due to the remote locations, time delay between the crime and report, and absence of witnesses to the crime.

In this case, the victim went to the State Trooper barracks and borrowed a police computer to track the location of his Smartphone; the phone was in a nearby community, and appeared to be with someone walking.

State Law Enforcement officers called the community’s police department, who dispatched officer to the area; the officer spotted a group of juveniles outside the residential area. A local Forest Service special agent also assisted, helping police determine four teens as the likely suspects. Police recovered the majority of property and the teens eventually confessed they’d participated in the crime spree, or were guilty of receiving stolen goods.

While the case remains under investigation, police expect charges to be filed shortly. Ah, technology!

When Transformers Needs CCTV Equipment, They Call The U-Spy Store

It was Friday, July 16, 2010 at 4:45pm when we received a call at our U-Spy Store Chicago location from the production crew for the movie Transformers currently being shot in downtown Chicago. The Transformers producer knew what she wanted but didn’t exactly know what it was called. She described the product as being a larger bullet or cylindrical shaped camera that can automatically pan back and forth with a controller. But she in fact already had the described camera. All she really needed was the mount that could move the camera as well as the controller.

Quickly our team contacted several of our area vendors who are scattered all over the Chicagoland area. One by one, our vendors told us the same story. This is actually very old technology replaced by the dome shaped PTZ camera. But the producers made it clear they did not want the more modern dome shaped PTZ. They needed something that could move the large bullet camera. It’s all about the visuals and in a movie, capturing the mood and atmosphere is much more important that having the latest technology.

After about 10 calls, we finally struck gold. We found the controller and panning mechanism in one of our vendors located in the Northwest Suburban area. It was now 5:06 and we needed to get approval, payment and retrieve the equipment before the 6pm closing time. About 5:30, after a flurry of calls and emails with attachments of images showing what the mechanism looked like, we received their approval.

Now the hard part for us arrives. We needed to get to the vendor by 6 to pick up the equipment and find a willing U-Spy Store team member to personally deliver the equipment. Gabriel was heading back to the office after a long day of service calls. I called him and he agreed to delay the start of his weekend by a couple of hours by diverting his route home and stop at the vendor. He arrived minutes before close and then called me to say he couldn’t make it on time. Gabriel likes to practical joke but didn’t terrorize me too long. He said he had the equipment in hand and wanted to know what to do next.

Meanwhile, back at U-Spy headquarters, German was more than willing to drive the equipment down to the Chicago Loop area to personally deliver the goods and perhaps get that Hollywood career jump started. I made sure that German had everything they needed to make things work including power supply, wiring and connectors.

A better than average Friday afternoon rush hour helped make things run smoothly and soon German took the hand off from Gabriel and was delivering the much anticipated equipment to the movie set. At 7:57pm I received a text message indicating Operation Transformers was completed. A little more than 3 hours after the call, our U-Spy team accomplished our mission. Damn good on a Friday afternoon!

Did we save the movie? Probably! Would the movie have figured out a way to continue shooting and production without The U-Spy Store? Probably not! Is the movie going to get 4 stars, 2 thumbs up and favorable reviews because The U-Spy Store saved the day? Absolutely Yes! In fact I am personally endorsing this movie right now by stating this will be the Movie of the Year!. Any questions of payoffs should be discussed with our legal team as soon as the trail of our former governor is complete.

So the moral of this is, when you need something fast and hard to find, give The U-Spy Store call. Even when shooting a B movie, The U-Spy Store will transform that script into an Academy Award winner. Or at least a movie that was saved by The U-Spy store and not in the editing room. And remember to keep an eye out for those panning cameras and remember who saved the day? The U-Spy Store!

Social Media Results in Thief Bust

Jacob Stone was having some bad luck last week.  His car was burglarized outside of a Seattle-area convenience store. The items stolen included high-end camera equipment and, of all things, his pants and a belt.

One of the store’s employees recognized the man who broke into Stone’s car as a man who had stolen items from the store previously during the week. Stone–obviously knowledgeable about photography and videography, retrieved copies of the store’s video surveillance footage and retrieved still images from the video footage.

Stone created “wanted” posters of the thief and the car he used to flee the scene and posted them around the neighborhood. Then, he went a step further and posted the flyers on Facebook. Anyone recognizing the now hunted man were given a dedicated Hotmail address so that they could submit tips.

In just a few days, he received the tip that local police used to nail the suspected shoplifter-cum-burglar. Someone in the area saw the man and emailed Stone. Stone called him back and later met with the tipster to give the man a reward of $250.  Plus, he got his equipment back, although he had to remove the images that the thief had taken of random items, like scenery in Seattle, a dog, and the perpetrators messy bedroom.

Stone is thankful that his idea for using social media paid off, and appreciates everyone who helped him during the investigation. Stone will be much more careful where he leaves his car, and it’s our opinion that he should invest in some automotive security if he’s going to keep expensive equipment in his car. Just saying…

And you thought Facebook just kept tabs on your friends…