Doorbell camera exposes 4th of July pranksters

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Video used for home security is, in some ways, opening up a can of worms on social media. It's a good law enforcement tool, but can it also be used for what some would call public shaming?

Take, for example, an incident that happened with the 4th of July holiday. A Katy resident posted a photo of two young girls on her doorstep, saying they had just lit a firecracker on her porch at midnight. The image was taken by one of those doorbell cameras being used more and more for home security.

"We promote layers of protection," says Deputy Roy Guinn with Harris County Precinct 5. "Anything a person can do to protect themselves in their homes is a good idea."

Deputy Guinn tells Fox26 the doorbell cameras have quickly become an extremely helpful law enforcement tool.

"We've actually had cases where the door cameras have helped us, not only with the house that the cameras were mounted on, but with things happening in front of the house," Guinn said, "For instance, suspect vehicles passing in front of the house."

So, the cameras are great for gathering evidence for investigations, but in this case, the evidence was being used to warn others in the neighborhood, or call out the culprits, or maybe to get the girls' parent's attention.

In our story, we blur the pictures of the girls, but they got a little famous on social media for a little while. Some people who saw the photo said it wasn't right to post their pictures for what amounted to a simple prank.

The woman commented, "What the heck has happened to our society? Shaming children is never okay."

The page admin disagreed.

"They need to be shamed," she wrote. "I work too hard to let some little kids with no sense of respect vandalize my house."

So, what would law enforcement have you do?

"I think they should always call law enforcement first," Guinn said, "Especially if they feel there's a threat to their person or their property, or if a crime has been committed, or if they suspect a crime has been committed."

To be fair, the homeowner who posted the picture of the girl wrote that she had called police in her area, but they didn't respond. And, because the post drew so much attention, much of it negative, she took down her post before the end of the day.

But with video in one hand, and a social media account in the other, the temptation is there to post things more and more.

Precinct 5 says the homeowner has a right to post the image from the doorbell, because you have no reasonable expectation of privacy if you're standing on their porch.

But if you want law enforcement to help you, you might want to show them the evidence first.