How to take advantage of the Security Camera Rebate Program

This Netgear Arlo Pro system qualifies for the program.

This Netgear Arlo Pro system qualifies for the program.

When DC's Private Security Camera System Incentive Program officially launched in February 2016, most of Petworth was left off the eligibility list (only PSA 403 was eligible). Thanks to the persistence of neighbors, ANC 4C and 4D Commissioners and Ward 4 Councilmember Brandon Todd (who sent a letter to the Office of Victim Services and Justice Grants, which administers the program), now all of Petworth is eligible to participate (PSAs 403, 404, 406 and 407).

So what is it?
Basically, the DC government has allocated $500,000 to fund a program that offers residents, businesses, nonprofits, and religious institutions a cash rebate for security cameras installed on the exterior of homes or businesses (up to $500 for residents, up to $750 for businesses). The $500,000 fund will not expire until all funds have been used. So far, $60,000 has been allocated in the first month and a half. 

There are some requirements:

  • The camera system must have been purchased and installed on the property after September 22, 2015.
  • Cameras must be installed on the exterior of a building/home and must be weather-proof (facing the public space).
  • You must have at least 250GBs of storage for video (can be a memory card, onsite recorder or a cloud service like Dropbox or other system). MPD asks for 10 days of recording.
  1. You must register your cameras with the Metropolitan Police Department.
  2. Then apply online and furnish receipts for the purchase.
  3. You have to get inspected and get approved. Timing of this depends upon the Office of Victim Services and Justice Grants. Payment will take 45 days once approved.

How much do you get back? You can get up to $500 for a household, but only up to $200 per camera. So if you buy four cameras at $200 each and spend $600, you'll only get $500. If you buy one camera for $250, you get $200. Installation costs, internet costs and so on are not covered -- just the cameras. For businesses, it's $750 total but still only $200 per camera.

Why register the cameras with MPD?
Beyond your own peace-of-mind, the camera rebate program serves two other purposes: having cameras can act as a deterrent, and the program provides MPD with access to hundreds of privately managed cameras. 

MPD obviously can't afford to put cameras all across the city, and frankly, most people don't want the government installing surveillance cameras across the city. Instead, residents control the cameras and the video. When you register your camera with MPD and a crime is committed nearby, MPD knows they have the option of coming to you to ask for any footage you have of the public space.

You don't have to give MPD your video footage. According to Christopher Dyer, who supervises the Rebate program for the Office of Victim Services and Justice Grants, you do not have to comply with MPD if you choose not to. To be clear, MPD does not get automatic access to video, and cannot ask for recordings from interior cameras in your home. No one is spying on you inside your home.

Mr. Dyer said that rebate applications are processed in roughly 45 business days and require a site inspection / drive by to make sure the camera is installed correctly. Any system needs 250GBs of total storage (MPD is asking for 10 days of available recordings, if needed) and must be weather-proof. .

What if you are a renter?
Both apartments and private homes are included in the program, however renters will need permission of the landlord/owner. Interior cameras are not eligible (apartment hallway or stairway, for example). The camera must be external facing public space (streets, alleys, etc.).

What if you can't afford a computer or internet?
For seniors looking to take advantage of the program who might need assistance, Mr. Dyer mentioned the Safe at Home program through the DC Office of Aging, which can assist seniors with finding contractors for home repair (or camera installation). For those who cannot afford a computer or internet access, Connect DC can help residents get access to computers and internet at highly subsidized prices. 

More questions on the program? Post a comment...
You can post questions below or contact the program at security.cameras@dc.gov or 202-727-5124.

What kind of camera should you buy?
Do your research and go to Amazon.com and Costco to find good deals on cameras. Look for a camera that offers 1080p or 720p resolution, night vision and at least 50 feet of acuity. If you have an iPhone or Android phone, look for one that offers an app so you can view the system remotely. Don't go overboard, but don't go cheap - you do have up to $200 per camera to spend.

One system I recommend (since I bought it myself) is the Arlo Pro system from Netgear. While the decision on what system is up to you, the Arlo Pro is battery-powered, so no wires to deal with. It offers some great features and the price for two cameras is $400 (before tax), so it's pretty much covered. It's high definition video with night vision, two-way audio so you can hear and speak, and free cloud storage of video (a huge savings). You can get from one to six cameras, and even add more on later.

Here's some of the Arlo Pro features:

  • 100% Wire-free - Easily place cameras wherever you want.
  • Weatherproof - Weatherproof so you can place them anywhere.
  • Rechargeable Batteries - Include rechargeable batteries that support fast charging. Easily swap out batteries and power up in seconds without having your cameras offline.
  • 2-Way Audio - Built-in mic and speaker enable push-to-talk capability, so you can listen in and talk back.
  • 7 Days of Free Cloud Recordings - Comes with recurring 7-day free cloud recordings. Live stream or view recorded video and audio for up to 7 days, free of charge.
  • HD Video - Enjoy sharp, detailed video.
  • Smart Siren - 100+ decibel siren.
  • Night Vision - See in the dark.
  • Local Backup - Can use USB storage for backup.
  • Smart Home - Works with IFTTT, SmartThings, etc.
     

Another system to consider is the Nest Outdoor Camera, available for $340ish on Amazon for two cameras. A weather-proof version of the popular indoor camera, the Nest offers high-definition video, person alerts (it can tell a person from a car entering the frame and alert you), as well as night vision. The difference here is that the Nest requires wires and an exterior outlet, and the cloud storage ("Nest Aware") for video is $150 a year for two cameras ($450 if you want the person alerts and some other features). You do get some interoperability with other Nest devices, so that might be something to consider.

Some features of the Nest Outdoor Camera:

  • 24/7 live video
  • 130º wide-angle view lets you look after your home in 1080p HD, day and night
  • Alerts on your phone
  • Weatherproof
  • Talk and listen
  • Night Vision

A popular system readers have told me about is Ring doorbell camera, available on Amazon for $199. I know many neighbors who use it and really like it. It can replace your existing doorbell (there's also a solar-panel powered version that's $228.99). It also offers high definition video, two-way audio and the ability to view the video from your phone. The cloud storage is extra money though, so that should be a consideration.

Here's some features of Ring:

  • Wide-angle HD video.
  • Night vision.
  • Motion-activated alerts.
  • Wi-Fi compatible.
  • Mobile app access.
  • Weather-resistant.
  • Lifetime purchase protection (free replacement if it gets stolen).
  • Easy installation.
  • Rechargeable battery or use door bell wires.

General requirements for the Security Camera Program: