Signs are important for 2 reasons.

  1. Deterrence
  2. Removing the “Expectation of Privacy.”
Neighborhood work party comes out to install the signs.

Neighborhood work party comes out to install the signs.

Where to place the sign

Placing the signs at the entrances of your neighborhood is a good start, if your neighborhood cover a large area you should consider placing signs on the internal streets of your neighborhood.

You cannot place the sign on a lamp-post or on a power/telephone pole without permit from the utility (assume it will be expensive/hard to get such a permit)

You cannot place your sign on a street sign without a permit from the City, country or state  (depending on the type of road), assume that you will NOT get a permit.

Check the local sign ordinance for permission to place a “civic” sign on private property this is a solution that would generally be easiest to implement.

In Oakland the ordinance is called “17.104.010 – General limitations on Signs in residential and OS zones.” Civic signs are covered in section “F”

Neighborhood Watch signs

Note that in city organized programs such as “Neighborhood Watch” and “Crime Watch”  can place “Neighborhood watch” signs on street signs and even utility poles. (this is done in Oakland) contact your city to become part of such a program. (click here for Oakland’s program)


Where to Buy

We bought our signs from a place we can recommend, good price and quality,  Call Bob Kocik on phone (925) 447-7446

The package we got from Worldwide Signs included (design and layout, metal sign with reflective paint, 10 foot galvanized pole and mounts to mount the sign on the pole.

NOTE: Make sure you get Bob to update the logos on the Sign to reflect your particular neighborhood. You don’t want to be displaying the wrong Logos.

When installing the signs you will need a hole digger, a bucket, a shovel, and a bag of cement.

There are 2 philosophies to hole depth when installing signs.

  1. Make the hole so shallow that a car can hit the sign without significant damage to the car but will instead knock the sign over (1 foot deep hole)
  2. Make the hole so deep that kids cannot topple the sign when playing acrobats, 1/3 of pole length into the ground (3-4 feet deep hole)

Pick the philosophy that suits your temperament.


Place the sign on private property to avoid issues with the City.

Place the sign on private property to avoid issues with the City.


Painting the Camera.

As discussed on the blog entry about Decoy Cameras the best solution is to hide the expensive real camera and install visible decoy cameras for deterrence.

The Axis P1347E comes in a very sturdy Vandal resistant Housing, and is painted bright white.

The Axis P1347E comes in a very sturdy vandal resistant Housing, and is painted bright white.

The Axis Cameras come white from the factory for maximum visibility and deterrence they are designed to be mounted high on buildings and poles where they are not easily stolen or vandalized. We cannot do that in a neighborhood with 1 story houses, so we have to make to make the cameras less obvious.

In the Starter kit we bought a can of black Mat Rust-Oleum, time to use it.

Note:First test the camera to make sure it works, it is much easier to return a camera for repair that has not been painted.

1) Remove the Sun Shield
2) Cover the Front Window and the little vent to prevent painting them (I used painters tape)

Front window covered in Painter's Tape

Front window covered in Painter's Tape

3) Mount the camera on a study footing (I used an old tree stump) using the strong wood screws from the starter kit.

Camera mounted on a tree stump for painting

Camera mounted on a tree stump for painting

4) Start spraying

Camera Spraying in progress

Camera Spraying in progress

5) Parts of the inside of the sun shield will be visible from certain angles so make sure you paint the inside of the sun-shield too.

Paint the inside of the Sun shield

Paint the inside of the Sun shield

6) Stealth Camera is the result.

After the paint has dried the mat black gives a very stealthy appearance.

After the paint has dried the mat black gives a very stealthy appearance.

You are now ready to mount the camera in the right location.

Wide Dynamic Range WDR examined.

Wide Dynamic Range a.k.a. High Dynamic Range is one of the hottest subject concerning surveillance cameras. Some of the people I talk to will choose a camera with a number of functional shortcomings just because it is believed to have the all important High Dynamic Range. So I decided to investigate.

What is Wide Dynamic Range (WDR) ?

A photo with some areas in sunshine and others in shade will not be able to show both areas well, either the bright area will be lit correctly and the dark area will be under-exposed, or the dark area will be lit correctly and the bright area will be overexposed. Technically it is very hard to expose different parts of the scene with different opening times. Wide/High Dynamic Range is an attempt to do the impossible and expose different areas different.

WDR on Axis P1347-E Network Camera

Axis uses this photo to show WDR on their homepage:

Axis Wide Dynamic Range Sample from their homepage.

Axis has a white paper describing the different ways to achieve wide dynamic range, and the pros and cons of the different methods. Link at the bottom of this page.

Axis calls the method implemented in the P1347-E for “Dynamic Contrast”

Axis P1347-E WDR setting

Axis P1347-E WDR setting - Dynamic Contrast

Real life WDR tests.

To test the WDR function of the Axis P1347-E, I enabled Wide Dynamic Range in the Axis interface, there is a sub-setting with a range from low to high, I experimented shortly with moving the setting all the way to low and all the way to high, but was unable to detect any visible difference in the images, so I left that at its default setting which was the middle.

I then left the WDR on for 1 week, and then set out to collect comparison photos. A set of comparison photo would be two photos that showed the same scene, with and without WDR, The jobs turned out to be a lot harder that I had though and I ended up having to drive my car past the camera in the end to get that last good comparison set.. Day scenes were especially troublesome, when I found the same car on two photos 1 week apart, the weather would not be the same, a comparison between a sunny day and a cloudy day would be useless.

WDR Day comparison

The Postal truck was nice, it comes at the same time every day.

WDR Day Scene with Shade

WDR Day Scene with Shade, click to enlarge

WDR should enhance the US Postal Van is in shade. And it does, the postal van in the shade is slightly lighter with WDR. However we lose details on the rest of the photo and while lighter the WDR does not give us any additional details on the Van.
Enabling WDR:  no practical difference

WDR Sunrise comparison

Too bright for night vision and too dark for day vision, sunrise and sunset are traditionally times of the day that are hard to capture on surveillance cameras, what will the Wide Dynamic Range do? it was really hard to find comparison photos as the twilight period in northern California is only a few minutes long, and here in the spring the sunrise it at an earlier time every day.

Sunrise twilight WDR comparison

Sunrise twilight WDR comparison - Click to enlarge

Looking at the clothes it is obvious that the WDR setting reduce the level of details, Looking at the black dog and the asphalt, one can see how the WDR setting introduces noise pixels.
Enabling WDR:  Worse 

WDR Night comparison 1

The night is where most cameras has a hard time recording license plates, and distinguishing car models, so I was eagerly anticipating the result of the night comparisons.

The good news for this test is that the light is pretty consistent at night compared to day (consistently dark that is).

White Van WDR Comparison

White Van WDR Comparison - Click to Enlarge

WDR reveals more details on the vehicle, and on the far side of the street, however the license plate that could not be read before still cannot be read.
Enabling WDR:  Better

WDR Night comparison 2

WDR Night Comparison 2

WDR Night Comparison 2 - Click to enlarge

With WDR the noise washes out the details of the car and driver (convertible roof on in the 2nd photo), without WDR we can see a part of the license plate, but with WDR the license plate is completely washed out.
Enabling WDR: Worse

WDR Night Comparison 3 headlights

Blinding headlights makes it hard to see a license plate at night, how would the Wide Dynamic Range fare here?

WDR Night Comparison with Headlights.

WDR Night Comparison with Headlights. - Click to enlarge (test car, not a criminal)

WDR does not give us any additional details, instead it almost washes out the license plate that could be clearly read in the photo without WDR.
Enabling WDR: Worse

Larger Statistical sample

Based on the last comparison sample, and a feeling I got from examining thousands of photos looking for comparison samples, I decided to do an actual count of the license plate readability in darkness for 2 nights (1 without WDR + 1 with WDR), my initial feeling was confirmed by the hard numbers: when measured over 87 night vehicles with license plates, the readability fell 33% when enabling WDR.


Wide Dynamic Range from Axis as implemented on the P1347-E holds a lot of promise but fails to deliver on key practical points. Camera is excellent both day and night without WDR, and has the key ftp push feature that is crucial to our implementation. The camera will continue to be our favorite camera, but WDR stays turned off.

More Info:

Wikipedia on High Dynamic Range:

Axis on WDR:

Axis Whitepaper on WDR:


Neighborhood Camera Starter Kit

Last Updated Novermber 25,2014.

The most common question I get is: Which camera are you using?

The Camera is only one part of the equation, power and lighting are very important factors.

Here is the Starter Kit for less than USD $2,000 (subject to small fluctuations, be sure to use the links below to ensure that Amazon contributes to Neighborhood Guard)

Neighborhood Security Camera Starter Kit

Rugged Swedish Outdoor 5 megapixel Camera Axis P1357-E 5MP/HDTV (1080p+)
Power Over Ethernet Camera Power supply. Alfa 48V IEEE802.3af PoE Injector, Power Over Ethernet Adapter
Ethernet Cable out to the camera CAT5E, UTP, Bulk Cable, Solid, 350MHz, 24 AWG, Black, 1000 ft
Connectors for the Cable 100 pcs Cat6, Cat5E Crimp Connectors
Cable Strain Relief RJ45 Black Strain Relief Boots (50 Pcs Per Bag)
Connector Crimp Tool New RJ45 CAT5 Network Lan Cable Crimper Pliers Tools
Black Spray Paint for Camera Rust-Oleum 249127 Painter’s Touch Multi-Purpose Spray Paint, Flat Black, 12-Ounce
Camouflage for Camera Polyester Leaf Ghillie Helmet Cover Camo Woodland
Mounting Bolts Galvanized Steel Lag Bolt, Hex Head, 5/16″, 1-3/4″ Length (Pack of 10)
Infrared Illuminator CMVision IR100 – 98 LED Indoor/Outdoor Long Range 200-300ft IR Illuminator With Free 2A 12VDC Adaptor
Long Low-voltage Power Cable for the Infrared Illuminator Coleman Cable 095136208 12/2 Low Voltage Lighting Cable, 100-Feet

We are trying to negotiate a bulk price for our members, until that is finalized please use the links above as it will get you the best prices available and make a small donation back to Neighborhood Guard.

Question from a Neighborhood Guard Member:
If we install 2 cameras, does the original order have enough ethernet cable, connectors, relief boots, mounting bolts, and low voltage cable for both cameras?

For Each Camera and Infrared light you will use:

  • 1 x Run of ethernet cable from your router to the Camera. (max 300 feet)
  • 1 x Run of low-voltage cable from weatherproof/Indoor wall outlet to camera. (Max 200 feet)
  • 2 ethernet connectors
  • 2 ethernet relief boots
  • 4 mounting bolts