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Doorbell Live-Cams Fight Back Against Porch Pirates Filching Packages

Johnny Kung couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw the live security-camera video on his smartphone: A man in a blue-checkered shirt casually walked up to his front door, took three packages and walked away.

“Hello there, what are you doing?” the Berkeley resident yelled to the would-be porch pirate through the speaker of his high-tech, video doorbell. “That’s ours!”

In the tech-savvy Bay Area and beyond, a small but growing number of homeowners like Kung are installing doorbell cameras and other Internet-connected security devices. Theft is a particular concern this season, amid the ever-growing raft of online-ordered holiday packages. Police said security cameras can play an important role in securing homes, though they caution that people shouldn’t rely solely on cameras to prevent theft.

“We do recommend them,” said San Francisco police spokesman Robert Rueca. “We might not catch the one person who does it on one porch. But our experience shows that suspects do it in multiple places. If we have images, we’re able to disseminate the information and see if they are known suspects or known in the community.”

Cameras can provide evidence to catch more than just porch pirates. San Ramon police this month arrested four teenagers after investigators posted video on the neighborhood social network Nextdoor showing a car’s occupants shooting a flare gun at houses and cars. And video that Campbell police posted on YouTube helped identify suspects in two Oct. 10 home burglaries.

Both cities ask residents who own home security cameras to voluntarily register them with the police departments as potential investigation aids. Campbell police Capt. Gary Berg said the cameras are an electronic extension of neighborhood watch programs.

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