BY SARAH HOFFMAN • PHOTO COURTESY OF PIXABAY
With the Alberta rural crime rate being 42 per cent higher than in urban centres in 2017, farm residents have become more interested in beefing up security. Some are using technology to deter crime on their properties.
Olds College partnered with Telus in 2019 to install a security system to protect the employees and assets of its Smart Farm. “We have had numerous thefts and theft attempts in the last eight months,” said Jason Bradley, the college’s director, Smart Ag and interim farm director, this past November. The fuel stored in the yard of the Smart Farm’s equipment shop has been targeted multiple times. As a countermeasure, the college had a video security system installed that can detect the presence of people and vehicles after hours.
The system notifies Bradley or on-campus security personnel. “As a farm owner, I would get notification that there was activity in the farmyard and I’d be able to look at the live-streaming footage on a computer or smart device and see that someone is trying to steal fuel. At that point, I can phone the RCMP and hope there’s an intervention.”
When a crime does occur, the video files can provide evidence in a criminal case. It can also protect farm owners and employees. “I don’t want my farm staff to be combining at the end of day and they come back to the shop and happen upon a thief who has no respect for people or property,” said Bradley. “If the deterrence and monitoring can prevent interaction with my staff, that’s important.”
Companies such as Edmonton’s Video Security Solutions offer a camera-based system equipped with a unique method of deterrence. The system’s video feed can be monitored by the company or the farm owner. When the camera detects unauthorized on-farm activity, a loudspeaker is used to scare off the intruder. It emits a bullhorn sound followed by a vocal warning. This can be an automated message or can be delivered by a live person who can describe the intruder’s appearance. Company owner Kevin Penberthy said this interaction is normally enough to repel would-be criminals.
“We’ll never catch them, but if we stop the crime from happening in the first place, the client wins and the bad guy loses,” he said. The camera equipment is available in a range of prices and the company offers video monitoring for about $100 per camera per month. Customers can enlist this farmyard monitoring on a temporary basis, such as when they’re away on winter vacation.
According to Penberthy, the biggest challenges faced by rural users of video security systems is internet speed and the type of access being used. The system he sells should ideally have a minimum upload speed of one megabyte per second for monitoring purposes or the video will be choppy.
As well, in order for video footage to be viewed by the monitoring company or the property owner, a static public IP address is ideal. Some internet service providers offer a hub or cellular gateway with dynamic IP addresses that can change with no notice to the user. When this happens, the cameras are not accessible remotely and a service call is required to restore the connection with the new IP address.