Utilizing Digital Trail Cameras for Ranch Security
By Deputy John Blenker, Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department
Thanks to the pictures they produce, trail cameras in strategic locations can be one of the best, most cost-effective crime detectors available for both ranchers and their law enforcement partners. Not only do “cameras in operation” signs help deter would-be thieves, but the photos themselves identify and subsequently lead to successful prosecution of crooks hoping to steal a rancher’s valuable equipment. It is virtually impossible for a suspect to deny his presence when a picture clearly shows him in a place where he had no right to be.
I have had good success writing cases and submitting them to the District Attorney’s office after identifying subjects from photographs taken on a trail camera. These efforts go a long way toward putting thieves out of business.
WHAT IS A TRAIL CAMERA – Generally, it is a self-contained digital system that records images either in still photos or video mode. It is equipped with a built in motion detector that activates the camera and snaps the photo automatically when movement occurs in the lens field. Range for effective identification of persons varies from 24-50 feet. Some cameras will even send images via Wi-Fi to your computer or via cellular technology to your mobile phone. If cost is a factor and you need an inexpensive security solution for your property, I would suggest a stand-alone trail camera with a removable memory card you unload manually and view elsewhere.
WHAT IS IN THE SYSTEM – A trail camera consist of the camera itself, a removable memory card similar to your everyday digital camera and a power source. The unit is generally powered by batteries, but may also use an external low voltage power source. They can be left unattended on your property – even in remote locations -- and serve as silent guardians capturing images, each one of which is time and date stamped.
RECOMMENDATIONS -- Cameras vary in the size of memory capabilities and I recommend the largest card available. It is best also to have a spare memory card so that you can pull the one in use for viewing and replace it with a fresh card. That way, the camera is always ready. I further recommend a camera that works invisibly without emitting any visible flash or red glow that will allow trespassers to know what – or where -- it is. We at the “Task Force” use a “Bushnell Trophy Cam HD with no glow LED.” A Rancher recommended this setup to us several years ago after the successful identification of a suspect who committed a theft on a property next to his. Those cameras ultimately provided the evidence we needed to successfully prosecute the suspect.
No question: “a picture is worth a thousand words” when it comes to curbing ranch crimes. Thanks to these cameras, we have assembled numerous cases and identified suspects committing many types of thefts. The technology provides us in law enforcement with a potent tool to identify suspects, prosecute them and put them out of business. And it gives the landowner peace of mind knowing that, if something happens on his property in his absence, the perpetrator will be identified red-handed.
WE CAN HELP -- If you have questions about the use of trail cameras on your property please don’t hesitate to contact me or one of your Rural Crimes Task Force Deputies. We will be happy to assist you in any way we can (707) 565-3940.