Orlando couple installs high-tech surveillance system in home

Thieves and vandals, smile if you roam into the Deer Pointe neighborhood. You're on camera.

Residents Lena and Wayne Badolato have adopted a security measure typically reserved for shopping malls, casinos or millionaires' mansions. They've recently outfitted their house in southeast Orange County with four high-tech, motion-activated security cameras that record the comings and goings around the clock. The high-resolution cameras can zoom in to see a face, read a license plate, and they even can see in the dark.

The reason is simple. Crime has come to the 100-home neighborhood that had seemed trouble-free for years. But not anymore.

There have been about 27 burglaries of homes and cars as well as one home invasion in the south Orange County neighborhood since March, according to the Orange County Sheriff's Office.

Crime is on the rise around Central Florida, and neighborhoods are mobilizing against it.

Requests for Neighborhood Watch programs are up, officials from the Orange and Seminole County Sheriff's Office say. In fact, in Seminole County, officials say the demand has climbed about 25 percent over last year.

The Deer Pointe residents are forming a Neighborhood Watch. They had 26 people attend their first meeting, and they've been handing out fliers to get more people involved.

An official Neighborhood Watch requires 40 percent of the neighborhood to sign on. They are a bit more than halfway there.

Until the watch gets up and running, the Badolatos set out at night, patrolling their own streets, taking down license-plate numbers of vehicles that don't belong.

"I have to do something," Wayne Badolato said. "We literally drive around at 1and 2 in the morning. I can't sleep anyway, not when it's getting like this."

He has confronted people who did not belong in the neighborhood and asked them to leave.

While security cameras are a good tool, they may not be the silver bullet to fight crime, Orange County Deputy Sheriff Hiram Bustamante said.

The cameras can have a scarecrow effect: They don't stop a thief entirely but just urge the thief to pick another house.

"A camera is good for you but bad for your neighbor if they don't have one," Bustamante said.

"Criminals are looking for an easy way in and easy way out, and they don't want to get caught," he said. "Cameras might make them think twice."

Americans have grown accustomed to being watched by surveillance cameras at a bank, an ATM, a grocery store.

But the convergence of high-quality cameras at relatively low cost, broadband Internet access and proliferation of computers has put security cameras in reach of the average consumer, said Bill Ablondi, an analyst with Parks Associates, a technology market research and consulting firm based in Dallas. He had no solid forecast for home security cameras, but he said: "Systems that used to cost several thousand dollars now cost several hundred."

Lena Badolato said she hopes her neighbors will follow suit and put up cameras, too. Others, including residents Donna Lewis and Corky Hall, are considering it.

The Badolatos had three tires slashed. Several neighbors have had their automobile windows smashed. Another had cars spray-painted.

"We are tired of what has been going on," Lena Badolato said. "The community is now taking back our neighborhood from these thugs."

Residents sometimes hear gunfire at night.

"We found eight shell casings and gave them to the deputies," Lewis said.

One neighbor on Newfield Drive came home to find her front door kicked in, Lewis said.

The Neighborhood Watch meetings, the cameras and the citizen patrols are signs that the community is not going to sit still for increasing crime.

"We have to do something," Hall said. "I've lived here for 181/2 years, and we're not going anywhere. This is our neighborhood."