Posted by LS
TOLEDO (WTOL) - In a wireless world, signals from numerous devices are being transmitted all over the airwaves. Sometimes those signals are being picked up by the wrong people, and they are watching you.
Criminals can look into homes and businesses with a back-up camera you install on your car. The monitor can be an eye into your private world.
The VR3 is a back-up camera system you can buy pretty much anywhere. The camera is mounted around your license plate, and the monitor fits on your dashboard. However, we found when the camera is not in use, the monitor picks up signals from other wireless cameras.
Check out this Huntington Bank in Perrysburg. As we sat in the parking lot, the monitor tapped into the surveillance system focused on the lobby area. You can see people in the lobby and even where the employees are.
We let a supervisor know the monitor was picking up their signal.
The camera is made by a company called Homeland Security Cameras. It's similar to one that operates on the common frequency 2.4 gigahertz.
Huntington bank gave us a statement which says, in part, "The monitor has been removed from the office."
How about this jewelry store in our area where the camera is focused on the counters. The signal is so strong, the monitor picked up pictures from across the street. It showed when the store was full and when it wasn't.
Retired Police Sergeant Richard Murphy watched the video our monitor captured. "The dirt ball out there is driving around looking to do a heist on a bank or jewelry store. He can monitor. He can see how many people are in the place. He can see exactly what's going on."
One of the most disturbing images the monitor captured is a baby in Lucas County.
From our car, the monitor picked up the parent playing peek-a-boo with the child in a crib. Later the baby falls asleep, and the parent takes the blanket off his head. Then, you can even see more of the baby as he turns his head.
"I'm shocked. I think it's completely invasive," a concerned parent tells us.
Moms in the area were outraged that people just driving through the neighborhood could peep into houses. "That's a scary sight. You're showing me a baby on this monitor, and it's in somebody's home. I can't believe that's even allowed," Robyn says.
Another parent, Liz, points out, "I think it's very creepy in the fact that child predators may know, figure this out and just drive around houses looking for kids."
News 11 also found a church in downtown Toledo where you could see when it was full and when no one was in the worship area. The assistant director, Tom Abner, says, "I'm a little surprised... a little shocked. It's not very cool."
He adds this is one of the drawbacks of technology. "I can see a lot of negative things coming form this, so we're going to have to look into it and discuss it. We have to see what we can do to correct the problem."
How about Louie's Cafe in north Toledo that was using cameras made by Swann. He wanted to protect his employees with a camera system, not knowing cars from even across the street can see inside.
Owner Louie Biller tells us, "I'd tell the manufacturer he better get on the ball. I mean, we buy these for security -- not to help out anybody else in the world."
What do the camera manufacturers say?
What about the manufacturer? The VR3 is made by Roadmaster. A company spokesperson declined our interview, but did say if it's installed correctly then mixed signals are not an issue. He also says the benefits (of the VR3) outweigh the negatives. He points to thousands of kids who have been hit or killed when drivers did not see them as they were backing up. He says, "People can change things (the monitor's use) to do what they want. Our intension is pure."
But many people we talk to say, "If you can't figure out how to do it so signals don't get crossed, then take it off the market."
Roadmaster responded to that by giving this analogy: "Baseball bats are supposed to be used for baseball. If they're used differently, do baseball bats stop getting produced?"
People who are upset contend baseball bats can't see through walls like the combination of wireless cameras and back-up camera monitors.
"It is making the law enforcement officer's job three times as hard because this guy is watching everything that you're doing," says Retired Sergeant Murphy.
Banks, jewelry stores, homes -- They can all can be targets of criminals who have a car and a monitor. By the way, this back-up camera system is FCC compliant. News 11 has contacted the FCC to let them know that people's lives could be at risk.