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Infrared Help to Catch a Predator

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  • #1752
    elchode
    Participant

    Hi all, I hope this is the right area to put this; apologies if it is not. LightGiver recommended I consult the hive mind over here because I’m in a really sticky situation and full of questions.

    Long story short: A 65 year old man is systematically destroying my car and I need to catch him. Problem? He’s doing it sometime between 3:30 and 5:30 AM. My solution is to pick up a Sony DCR-HC52 and take advantage of that Sony NightShot Technology. The problem is that I’m entirely unsure what kind of range this gets or if it will even do what I want it to do. I’ve included a diagram below to illustrate the situation, but the variables are that I’ll be placing it in my fiancee’s car overnight on a tripod. Her rear windows are factory tinted, but not limo black. The street is fairly dark, however there is a parking lot across the street and a motion-sensored light near the area in question. I’ll also need to be able to get a fairly clear shot at about 3 car lengths distance. I think I remember reading on a website that this camera will hold its aperture at 2.2 in night mode, and that is not manually adjustable, nor is shutter speed.

    The question: I’m wondering if any of you have any experience with this sort of thing, or if I’d be better off getting a cheaper video camera and investing in an IR light and filter.

    My limitations are that I’m a half-employed student saving for a wedding, so I’ve got no cash. Not to mention my car (my only asset) has at least $1,000 of damage done to it so far. Most recently, the guy actually backed his pickup truck up into my car to push it so it was parked illegally.

    That big scratch? He dug his keys into my trunk. Not to mention my hood and quarter panel, and stole my antenna. I’m hoping to keep it around $300

    The Dramatic Details:
    Why is he doing this? I pay for public parking on the street; he does not. Parking is not enforced overnight. He is “obese” to be nice about it, and he’s got a driveway he could park in, except it’s down a steep hill. So he chooses not to, and has laid claim to the street spot. Now, I don’t park there if I don’t have to, however, this is in an area full of restaurants around the corner where parking often fills up (the town is featured prominently in the Sopranos when Vito runs away to New Hampshire in case you want a feel for it). When I do, my car is vandalized about 80% of the time. My fiancee’s car has been vandalized too. We know its him because he camps the spot out and will park illegally until someone moves and then take the spot.

    Here is a diagram of the situation:


    I live out of view of this, so obviously just sitting in my apartment isn’t an option.
    A: The parking spot in question, that I technically pay for
    B: The parking spot he could use if he wasn’t so lazy
    C: Possible CameraCar location
    D: Possible CameraCar location
    E: Possible CameraCar location
    F: We suspect this is his bedroom
    Light Sources:
    1: Motion sensor range
    2: Intermittent Streetlight
    3: Post office Parking Lot with some lighting

    Out of range to the southwest is Main Street, and it’s full of lights and storefronts. In fact, where the “M” is at the bottom of the image is where the town has a webcam that looks E-W down main, not in my direction.

    I’m really hoping that this camera idea works. It’ll be a great opportunity to put my legal education to practical use as well as engage in my favorite hobby of all time: vengeance.

    Thanks in advance for any help and making it through this long ass post.

    #26075
    Kestrana
    Participant

    Have you talked to local authorities about the problem?

    #26076
    orionid
    Participant
    #26077
    elchode
    Participant

    Have you talked to local authorities about the problem?

    Yes I’ve filed police reports each time, and their response is “that sucks, call an investigator”. So I figured investigating on my own is cheaper. I also staked out the car a few times but it won’t get me anywhere when I need to go to court.

    #26078
    elchode
    Participant

    http://www.walmart.com/Moultrie-Spy-40-Game-Camera/ip/5933976

    We considered these, but then were worried about mounting them inconspicuously and having him simply see it and take it down. He looks like the hunting type too, so he might know what it is.

    #26079
    orionid
    Participant

    Park in spot “D” and leave it locked inside a car. It will still be less conspicuous than the red light on a sony handycam (I have two), and you won’t have to make a trip out to it every 42 minutes to change the disk.

    The other problem that you’ll face with the handycam is that the single IR LED is not terribly bright. Best-Buy has a IR floodlight attachment that clips into the interface at the top for about $35 and it works wonders. Detail is also a little bit less in nightshot mode.

    Honestly, the way I would approach the situation, if I were getting fluff from the authorities, would be to leave your car parked in “A” and your fiance’s in “C.” Pull an all-nighter. Sit in your fiance’s car with the handycam. When you see him come out, turn it on and start recording. Make sure you get good footage of him damaging your car, then, without stopping the camera, so it’s one continuous feed, get out of the car, approach him and ask what he’s doing. Make sure to get his face on camera. After that the key thing is to protect the camera and disk. Once you have irrefutable evidence, you should have his ass in a sling. I say should, because it’s new jersey, and god knows what kind of wierd law they might have about videotaping after dark.

    Option B is fighting fire with fire. I assure you that there are simple, effective ways to send his car to hell for parking in your spot, but I’ll let you figure those out on your own.

    /Peppermint candies + Glass + freezing weather….. just sayin’ is all.

    #26080
    elchode
    Participant

    Option B has been considered, however if I do engage in shenanigans such as that, I need to be prepared to engage in a campaign of mutually assured destruction, ya know? Plus, I’m in law school. I want to catch this guy so I can get some practice. And believe me, I will f*ck his life right up. I can get him on at least 3 criminal charges (harassment, malicious destruction of property, and disorderly conduct in the 4th degree). Not to mention the civil charges to recoup my expenses. I’m just not sure if I’ll be able to recoup the cost of the video camera which is why I don’t want to go all out.

    So if I get you right, you’re saying that the hunter camera is better than the Sony because the Sony will run out of tape every 45 minutes and has the red light going on?

    My apprehensions of the hunter cameras are also that it’s not constant video, right? I’d like to make sure that the camera can catch as much as possible. Also, when it comes down to it, I plan on doing exactly what you said and stake out the car in person. The problem is that I want to make sure I know exactly what time he comes out since the last two attempts have been a bust, and when he does come out and I catch him, I want video of it all.

    And finally, if I’m going to sink money into this stuff, I’d like to have a use for it after I’m done, so I figured the sony cam would be the best bet for continued enjoyment.

    So I need to make sure that the model I get has the shoe or whatever its called to use the IR floodlight attachment?

    #26081
    elchode
    Participant

    Also, can I ask what model sony handycams you have? The newer models that are cheap don’t have the shoe for the IR lights. The HD ones all have the shoe.

    And one last question: would an IR light such as that work with a camera not specifically built for IR? I read that the Sony nightshot just removes the IR filter from the lens, so if that isn’t present on the higher end models, would an IR spotlight even be effective? If so, I may just buy a refurb or used higher-end model from a few years ago if I can just set the shutter and aperture (the newer nightshots seem to have that disabled as well) and mount the IR spotlight to it.

    #26082
    orionid
    Participant

    I have the DVR-402 and 702. The 402 is about six years old, and the 702 is three.

    In LP, you can get 42 minutes on a disk, 30 in SP, and 17 in HD. The IR light will only work with IR specific cameras. The way the nightshot on the handycams works, is like you stated, it moves the IR filter out of the way and converts the signal from the CCD to a green/white/black psuedo-monochrome. It leaves visible light in the equation to prevent abuse of the fact that IR tends to penetrate wet and sheer clothing very effectively. If you use IR film or another digital camera with the IR filter removed, you can achieve the same effect and get usage out of the IR flood. Otherwise you’re stuck in a pickle, unless there’s a nightshot camera that records to magnetic or non DVR digital media.

    The hunter cams are still shots. Some of them can be configured with a minimum delay, but in your case that’s probably not a desirable trait, you’d want to set it to zero. The way they work is to sit with an IR electronic eye that senses motion. When motion is detected, they fire an IR or white flash (depending on model) and take a still photo. This repeats until the memory card is full. The forseeable down side is that you’ll get lots of shots of passing cars and stray cats, but when your perpetrator does come out, you’ll have continuous shots of his activites at roughly one second intervals, which may or may not give you what you need to convict.

    I also understand your point about wanting to get further use out of it, which is why I would still recomend pulling an all nighter with a video cam.

    #26083
    elchode
    Participant

    I have the DVR-402 and 702. The 402 is about six years old, and the 702 is three.

    In LP, you can get 42 minutes on a disk, 30 in SP, and 17 in HD. The IR light will only work with IR specific cameras. The way the nightshot on the handycams works, is like you stated, it moves the IR filter out of the way and converts the signal from the CCD to a green/white/black psuedo-monochrome. It leaves visible light in the equation to prevent abuse of the fact that IR tends to penetrate wet and sheer clothing very effectively. If you use IR film or another digital camera with the IR filter removed, you can achieve the same effect and get usage out of the IR flood. Otherwise you’re stuck in a pickle, unless there’s a nightshot camera that records to magnetic or non DVR digital media.

    The hunter cams are still shots. Some of them can be configured with a minimum delay, but in your case that’s probably not a desirable trait, you’d want to set it to zero. The way they work is to sit with an IR electronic eye that senses motion. When motion is detected, they fire an IR or white flash (depending on model) and take a still photo. This repeats until the memory card is full. The forseeable down side is that you’ll get lots of shots of passing cars and stray cats, but when your perpetrator does come out, you’ll have continuous shots of his activites at roughly one second intervals, which may or may not give you what you need to convict.

    I also understand your point about wanting to get further use out of it, which is why I would still recomend pulling an all nighter with a video cam.

    In a perfect world, I’d be able to catch enough vandalism pre-confrontation to make it clear what he was doing before I spring it on him. So all I really need is clear enough IR footage from one of those parking spots to see a person approach a car or another car hitting another car, ya know?

    Pre-confrontation night, I just need enough visibility to get his routine down so I know when to set my alarm just in case I fall asleep. To do this, I’m going to need enough memory to get both. Unfortunately, I need sony to combine like 4 cameras to get what I want.

    They have a 60 GB hard drive camera that has no night shot for $400ish
    They have an 8 GB flash drive camera that has night shot for $500ish that also shoots in HD
    They have a MiniDV with night shot for $250

    C|Net says the Flash drive one has low lux/night mode but Sony’s spec doesn’t. I might spring for it if I can find it used and confirm the low lux.

    #26084
    elchode
    Participant

    One last question:

    If a spec says the minimum light is about 5 or 6 lux, would IR definitely be needed? My understanding is that 5 lux is like a room with a nightlight, and the street is definitely much brighter. However, I don’t have a good meter to say how bright.

    #26085
    orionid
    Participant

    One last question:

    If a spec says the minimum light is about 5 or 6 lux, would IR definitely be needed? My understanding is that 5 lux is like a room with a nightlight, and the street is definitely much brighter. However, I don’t have a good meter to say how bright.

    I’m not sure I can answer that one accurately. Sorry.

    As far as getting his routine down and using two nights, I guess I’m thinking about this in more of a military mindset. Like I said earlier, once I got the camera of choice in hand (DVR with nightshot), I’d do it that night. No alarm, just me, the camera, some coffee and the street, and deal with being tired the next day. Pulling an all-nighter and still needing to be functional the next day is not that uncommon in my line of work, and I sometimes forget that normal people aren’t conditioned as such.

    Whatever you decide to go with, good luck to you.

    #26086
    elchode
    Participant

    One last question:

    If a spec says the minimum light is about 5 or 6 lux, would IR definitely be needed? My understanding is that 5 lux is like a room with a nightlight, and the street is definitely much brighter. However, I don’t have a good meter to say how bright.

    I’m not sure I can answer that one accurately. Sorry.

    As far as getting his routine down and using two nights, I guess I’m thinking about this in more of a military mindset. Like I said earlier, once I got the camera of choice in hand (DVR with nightshot), I’d do it that night. No alarm, just me, the camera, some coffee and the street, and deal with being tired the next day. Pulling an all-nighter and still needing to be functional the next day is not that uncommon in my line of work, and I sometimes forget that normal people aren’t conditioned as such.

    Whatever you decide to go with, good luck to you.

    No, I agree, and I’m prepared for it. The issue is that I’ve staked him out and he hasn’t done damage. He’s not totally predictable in the events, however the longer I go without parking there, the more likely he is to do damage.

    I just want to be able to get him doing the damage to my car from the other car clear enough to have it be clear enough to a judge in court that it was in fact him. After I have him do it, I”m going to confront him.

    Either way, I think I’ve narrowed it down to the DCR-HC52 and DCR-SR45. HC52 is Mini-DV, SR45 is 30 GB HDD. However they say that the quality on the SR 45 is only good enough for YouTube, so we’ll see. Both will work with the IR spotlight, and both will keep me within $300(ish), a little more after tax.

    I tell ya what, I wish I had one right now. I live on a very steep main street and I’m watching cars try and navigate it in a blizzard.

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