Atomatic License Plate reader Cameras and Software

35 Replies

Hi, As a lanlord and property manager of our own properties. I wanted to set up Automatic License Plate Reader Cameras and Software to detect Strange vehicles in the complex. We have a HOA annd so was wondering if anybody knows how to sell this to our HOAs that own the roads.The Fear of Crime seems to help here. as other residents want a way to detect strangers. If any have installed What Brand? or should I spin my own software?

For us and tenants its called security and is done everywhere now weather you see it or not. Automatic License Plate Readers were first introduced comercially by Palntir a Private intell firm in 2007. Government has had even longer. Many shopping centers I now see it in also parking structures. All Car Tries sold since 2006 had to be chipped with RFID under the patriot act so i'm just applying a little Tech already being used to keep my properties and tenacts safe. If you own a Car in the US now your already tracked so Im not causing any breach of privacy here. Believe it or not People will pay 20% more rent to live in a secured Building. so far looking at this type of config.

Getting anything through an HOA is a long and arduous process requiring patience, a lot of data and luck.

First, go to HOA meetings. Develop a relationship with the board so that they don't think you're that one landlord that came in, complained a bunch at a meeting and then never came back. Going to the meetings will give you an idea of what challenges the board is addressing.

Second, present your plan as a solution to a problem they already know about, have identified and want to work on.  If crime is a problem in your community, then this solves it.  If crime isn't the main problem, but buildings falling down due to deferred maintenance or whatever else, then you are unlikely to get the board engaged.

Third, come prepared with a scope of work that the board can then shop out for quotes.  If you make them or their property manager due a bunch of research on this, I can guarantee that it will be given low priority.

Fourth, listen to the HOA if they tell you they can't do it. What is the reason? Money? Too many other projects? Lack of expertise? Not solving an immediate problem? Figure out what the objection is and then persuade from there.

So much of HOA board work is reactive, rather than proactive. In the communities in which I sit on the board, they are 40-50 year old communities and we had Boards that didn't fix anything for several years. So if somebody came to me with a request for security camera when I'm dealing with the 5th boiler failure, 3rd sewer backup, 2nd building fire (just this year, and yes that's a real number) and complaints about the lawn, the pool and the parking lot, I can promise you that your security system will not get much consideration.

But if we're talking about yet another rash of car break-ins, people leaving items in our trash bins that we have to pay extra to dispose of, or the latest domestic violence or disturbing the peace issue going on, I am much more likely to listen.  

Make sure you're solving a real problem facing the community, not just bringing something in that is "nice to have".  

Lastly, know that if this is an expensive solution, it is more than likely that it's simply not in the budget and you may have to bring it up again when they are putting the next year's budget together.

@Alan DeRossett, as usual, @Linda Weygant's response is pretty good and should be followed.

The only dispute I have with her is that I would add a step before her first one: Obtain the HOA documents. Learn what authorities the Association and its Board have before you ask them to do something. The Declaration, Covenants, ByLaws, and Rules are ALWAYS the first step in addressing an HOA/COA matter.

That said, I wonder if you can provide us more information on the community or complex this is proposed for. It is a condo where everything not inside your unit is a common element or a community of SFRs with private roads and some park-like or recreational common areas?

How big?  How old?

Are there any privacy laws, local, state, or federal, that would preclude something like this? 

What are these strange vehicles doing in the complex? Maybe they are visitors? Is visitation allowed and how would this proposal affect that? 

How exactly would this be managed? Is the company you hire (which will be an ongoing expense) going to match all the plates with plates that are allowed, and then you will need another local person to go around and give tickets? That is going to introduce additional costs.

@OP, I'm not sure what the link is, it just takes me to a login page. But unless you have background in the field, it's not even remotely feasible to create your own software.

Originally posted by @Tony Gunter :

America ... the land of no more privacy rights.

Your idea would upset me greatly if I lived in your development.

Just curious if you have ever owned an apartment complex and had to solve major issues with crime, trespassing, vandalism, etc.? I have. I advertised to every prospect that our cameras were located throughout the property and we monitored them regularly. I can't recall someone saying they were greatly upset about having security. If they were, they of course didn't have to live there.

The city of Goldsboro NC implemented a gunshot detector. Within 1 second, the pinpoint location of the shot is dispatched to officers. Does that greatly upset you too? Or is that anonymous enough to be Ok?

Just trying to understand the bounds and context... and the issue.

My hoa had cameras for that back in 2012 It is a very inexpensive process and combined with neighborhood  watch it is a decent deterent at low cost  We also had rfid passes to open the gate  It is still a lot cheaper then having a 24 hour live  guard gate 

@Alan DeRossett we had a complex with simple AXIS and Pelco PTZ cameras that recorded license plates. Every vehicle on or off the property... but we didn't have any automation of the reading of the plates. When an issue came up, we would rewind and view the recorded tapes.

My opinion: you have a good idea.

So the question for you is have you looked into solutions like OpenALPR preferably on a small device (even a Raspian based RPi) ? I would bet this is something you can outsource.

I'm still trying to get my head around the tire / vehicle correlation. I think you have something, just not sure how it fits into a security solution. @Donald M. with all due respect, an implementation using off-the-shelf Arduino RFID reader in the hands of a software integration consultant company may be a cost effective answer. I love it when I hear stuff like "it's not even remotely feasible..." because when it happens, there is value.

@Chris Martin

Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

I get where you are coming from, but by the same token get where I am coming from.

To be clear, my concern is not about the cameras, they are ubiquitous in our world today. Go to London or Singapore to find out what surveillance saturation is.

The issue is see is that with Tag reading software now you potentially create a database of people's comings and goings. That is the issue. You could easily create a record of Mrs. Smith's "friend" coming over for a midday bumping of uglies. That is just one example of the liability side of having the tag reading software. Cameras, they are coming on a drone outside your bedroom window soon enough. No worries about static cameras posted strategically.

This seems a little creepy to me.  And, giving up any liberty is definitely not good.   

I think that many HOA board members would need a lot of convincing on the need for this.

In our Case the HOA is on our side because of recent theft and vandalism. We have a zero tolerance for Crime on our properties. This implementation is not so expensive since ALPR software is Open Sourced and Free. No ongoing expense or service a DB of plates allowed under our rental agreements and resident owners in Condo complex is compared to traffic of plates entering ,Exceptions can then be sorted out quickly if we have a police issue. We let police determine who belongs so no list is available Yes @Chris Martin using the OpenAlpR software and hope to get it working on a $5 raze berry Pi board. for cameras I've found many ready to go my favorite i use on my own home is the Light bulb IP Spotlight Cams, WiFi and monition capture with IR night vision. for $79. now works good and simple to install.

I'm all about privacy but if your are not committing a crime and your are an innocent bystander, what is the downside of your Tag being scanned? I love criminals getting caught. Sounds good to me.

Also adding the same to an apartment complex we own no HOA, Private Alley entrance. At Condo complex HOA approved my request since it will add near zero ongoing bills like the existing $1100 they were paying for live drive by Guard service we want to eliminate. HOA wants to lower or eliminate the $1100/per month useless security service we currently have. We will place signage advertising your under Video Surveillance while on Private streets in Condo Complex. Like the gun shot detector idea will look into adding this

"Arguing that you don't care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don't care about free speech because you have nothing to say,"

POST A SIGN:  surveillance equipment is active and recording your presence.

Add that statement to your lease, but note that those records are the property of the owner/landlord.

Yes, protection of families and children trump all non-resident privacy issues IMO.

Those concerned can withdraw to Walden's Pond.

Tony Gunter disagree, and so do our Apartment Tenants and other owners in our Condo rentals HOA. We lose our rights when we allow Crime to impact us. I guess if anyone is really paranoid about their liberty they can move or buy a farm somewhere. We will put up signs and advertise our properties as a neighborhood. Insurance is lower and we get 20% premium on rents this way. People here pay for security. Most cannot afford the Best Gate guarded etc. so we use cheaper alternatives. Its not like we USE K5 security robots with facial recognition and drones yet!

Originally posted by @Tony Gunter :

"Arguing that you don't care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don't care about free speech because you have nothing to say,"

 sure wish we had both UP and DOWN voting - -

@Alan DeRossett we are on the same page. I plan to look into this for our apartments. I was going to ask if you had prototyped this ... I had a post 50% complete early this morning and got sidetracked.

We ran our NVR on a cheap COTS PC running the Ubuntu OS. I never explored the API, but we had AXIS IP cameras and legacy (analog) Pelco cameras. I see that OpenALPR and ZoneMinder have available builds, forums, integration pages, etc., on gitHub and launchPad. It looks like all the parts are there (and I like the RPi solution for size and cost) it's just becomes an integration challenge, not a technology/development challenge. From my own personal perspective, I'd be tempted to hire an integrator to put the pieces together and try it at one of my company's apartment properties. I just don't have time at the moment to pursue something like this (integration/testing) on my own.

I never looked into the APIs because, simply, I didn't have to. The cameras work as a proactive deterrent more than anything. Our incident reports went from 26/month to 6/month. By the time we sold the place, our parcel's Raleigh PD (RPD, per "P" number) incidents were at less than 1/month. People who have not experienced managing apartments where crime creeps in should realize that we who have are on a different wave length. I don't wish it on anyone, but one AWDWISI case and I think those who cry "privacy"... well, their opinion might change. I could give a bunch of examples, from the cars that frequent one apartment for 50 seconds 4-6 times a night (this is the MO of a drug deal) to stolen vehicles 'stored' on our property. Learned those ID 'skills' from the RPD.

To me, this is a safety and security issue. Tony can side with the criminals who don't want cameras but in my experience (like screening tenants and invading their privacy) HOA/COA owners and tenants want and like the technology services we provided. A simple HOA resolution regarding privacy (which we had) and when we provided images to law enforcement was sufficient. I reviewed video, on behalf of management, with RPD on multiple occasions. Every time, reviews were 1) part of our policy, and 2) based on need, not some made up false premise posted by others here.

In the context of this topic, remember that this is about the owners putting security measures in place on their own property. Common areas are owned, collectively, by the unit owners through the HOA. Safety and security for property owners. That's what it is about.

Originally posted by @Jeff B. :

POST A SIGN:  surveillance equipment is active and recording your presence.

Add that statement to your lease, but note that those records are the property of the owner/landlord.

Yes, protection of families and children trump all non-resident privacy issues IMO.

Those concerned can withdraw to Walden's Pond.

I agree 100%. For apartments and condos both, I believe it is important to disclose surveillance. This is a general statement and does not represent any statutory or case law that I am familiar with.

To supplement my prior post I need to emphasise that surveillance is one tool (although significant) in the complete security picture. Tenant screening, physical security measures, community watch, solid policy practices (both HOA and apartment)... all are material to an overall security solution.

Another key asset in any solution is local law enforcement. In our downtown Raleigh apatment case, RPD Captain Poteat (of what used to be the 26th precinct) was a huge asset in our security plan, as were the beat officers and undercover guys and gals who helped us achieve our goals (essentially, our target was 0 crime on our property.) I really believe that when the RPD saw we were serious, had a plan (we developed with Captain Poteat) and goals, and had resources (e.g. security system/surveillance) they took ownership and 'made it happen'. It did happen. This 'transition' was about 8 years ago... and for that our 100 tenants (and members) over the last decade or so are grateful.

This post has been removed.

Interesting that this just popped up on my feed right now. I just left a property because I had a call from a tenant about an abandoned car in the driveway. I rolled back the cameras and watched exactly what happened. The driver locked the keys in the car. Once locked out, the driver and his girlfriend argued for a while which ultimately summoned the police. The driver and girlfriend left, then the police left. Shortly after the driver's mom showed up and was pacing around the car. Nearly 3 hours later, the car was still there so I went down to call a tow truck. The mother was there and said she had called someone to unlock it. I gave her 30 minutes to move the car or it would be towed. My thoughts on cameras:

  • Advise all the tenants that cameras exist and they do record
  • Post signs stating cameras exist and they record
  • Put up cameras & record

I have multiple cameras on a couple properties. In my experience, the tenants are comforted by the cameras. I advise the neighbors that cameras exist too, they are pleased by the security we offer our tenants and the neighborhood. 

Free eBook from BiggerPockets!

Ultimate Beginner's Guide Book Cover

Join BiggerPockets and get The Ultimate Beginner's Guide to Real Estate Investing for FREE - read by more than 100,000 people - AND get exclusive real estate investing tips, tricks and techniques delivered straight to your inbox twice weekly!

  • Actionable advice for getting started,
  • Discover the 10 Most Lucrative Real Estate Niches,
  • Learn how to get started with or without money,
  • Explore Real-Life Strategies for Building Wealth,
  • And a LOT more.

We hate spam just as much as you

Create Lasting Wealth Through Real Estate

Join the millions of people achieving financial freedom through the power of real estate investing

Start here