Menus Subscribe Search

Follow us


fake-security-camera

(PHOTO: COURTESY OF AMAZON)

One of Amazon’s Best-Selling Cameras Is a Fake

• September 26, 2013 • 10:00 AM

(PHOTO: COURTESY OF AMAZON)

Despite dropping crime rates and research proving their ineffectiveness, dummy security cameras keep selling.

Fluctuating among the top 10 of Amazon’s best-selling cameras is a small, silver security camera that mounts on an outdoor wall. Its flashing red light, wrote reviewer Davo73, is “a universal sign that a live camera is recording and bad guys don’t like to be recorded.” Commenter Capitol One said, “I can sleep easier now that I have installed three of these cameras around my house.” The camera, averaging at 4.3 of 5 stars, also happens to be fake.

The “Outdoor Fake, Dummy Security Camera With Blinking Light” is just one of the many fake security items sold by the Tennessee-based electronics company UniquExceptional. Its popularity comes at a time when the majority of Americans believe crime is increasing; a 2011 Gallup poll states that 68 percent believe there is more crime in the U.S. than a year ago while 48 percent state believe crime has gotten worse in their local community.

If the commercial success of the dummy camera is prompted by a confidence in security cameras and a belief that crime is increasing, then the product is riding an imaginary wave.

Many commenters stated they purchased the fake security camera to guard their personal residences, protecting their homes from “undesirables” and “thieves.” But security cameras, as a tool to prohibit crime, are not particularly successful. A study by the University of Leicester (the U.K.’s CCTV system is considered the most extensive in the world) found that the only instance in which security cameras cut crime was in parking lots. In a recent paper published in the Criminal Justice Review, researchers found that the implementation of CCTV cameras brought mixed results—but the situations where security cameras helped the least were in residential areas.

“Dogs and alarm systems are better deterrents,” Rebecca Lonergan, a former criminal prosecutor and now an adjunct associate professor at the University of Southern California Gould School of Law, told me.

If the commercial success of the dummy camera is prompted by a confidence in security cameras and a belief that crime is increasing, then the product is riding an imaginary wave.

In a 2011 report, the Federal Bureau of Investigation stated that the estimated number of violent crimes had decreased for the fifth year in a row, while the estimated amount of property crimes had decreased for the ninth year in a row. So why do Americans feel more unsafe now than before?

This perception of increased crime can be connected to the proliferation of social media and the nature of modern media coverage, according to Lonergan. It’s the immediacy and quantity of crime-related news that makes us feel like there is more crime than ever before. Horrible crimes have always happened, Lonergan said, “but you wouldn’t see them happening instantly by a video via someone’s cell phone. If something horrible happens in Kansas, you’ll see it in a manner of minutes.”

Americans love security and technology, Lonergan said, but only when they can control it. This may explain why the dummy camera continues to sell—the peace of mind it provides. “Like most people I’m willing to pay nine bucks for the chance it will fool a crook,” wrote commenter K. Blair. “I think it gives me an advantage over the person with no camera—real or fake.”

Sarah Sloat
Sarah Sloat is an editorial fellow with Pacific Standard. She was previously selected as an intern for the Sara Miller McCune Endowed Internship and Public Service Program and has studied abroad in both Argentina and the U.K. Sarah has recently graduated from the University of California-Santa Barbara with a degree in Global and International Studies. Follow her on Twitter @sarahshmee.

More From Sarah Sloat

A weekly roundup of the best of Pacific Standard and PSmag.com, delivered straight to your inbox.

Recent Posts

November 26 • 4:00 PM

Turmoil at JPMorgan

Examiners are reportedly blocked from doing their job as “London Whale” trades blow up.


November 26 • 2:00 PM

Rich Kids Are More Likely to Be Working for Dad

Nepotism is alive and well, especially for the well-off.


November 26 • 12:00 PM

How Do You Make a Living, Taxidermist?

Taxidermist Katie Innamorato talks to Noah Davis about learning her craft, seeing it become trendy, and the going-rate for a “Moss Fox.”


November 26 • 10:28 AM

Attitudes About Race Affect Actions, Even When They Don’t

Tiny effects of attitudes on individuals’ actions pile up quickly.


November 26 • 10:13 AM

Honeybees Touring America


November 26 • 10:00 AM

Understanding Money

In How to Speak Money, John Lanchester explains how the monied people talk about their mountains of cash.


November 26 • 8:00 AM

The Exponential Benefits of Eating Less

Eating less food—whole food and junk food, meat and plants, organic and conventional, GMO and non-GMO—would do a lot more than just better our personal health.


November 26 • 6:00 AM

The Incorruptible Bodies of Saints

Their figures were helped along by embalming, but, somehow, everyone forgot that part.


November 26 • 4:00 AM

The Geography of Real Estate Markets Is Shifting Under Our Feet

Policies aimed at unleashing supply in order to make housing more affordable are relying on outdated models.



November 25 • 4:00 PM

Is the Federal Reserve Bank of New York Doing Enough to Monitor Wall Street?

Bank President William Dudley says supervision is stronger than ever, but Democratic senators are unconvinced: “You need to fix it, Mr. Dudley, or we need to get someone who will.”


November 25 • 3:30 PM

Cultural Activities Help Seniors Retain Health Literacy

New research finds a link between the ability to process health-related information and regular attendance at movies, plays, and concerts.


November 25 • 12:00 PM

Why Did Doctors Stop Giving Women Orgasms?

You can thank the rise of the vibrator for that, according to technology historian Rachel Maines.


November 25 • 10:08 AM

Geography, Race, and LOLs

The online lexicon spreads through racial and ethnic groups as much as it does through geography and other traditional linguistic measures.


November 25 • 10:00 AM

If It’s Yellow, Seriously, Let It Mellow

If you actually care about water and the future of the species, you’ll think twice about flushing.


November 25 • 8:00 AM

Sometimes You Should Just Say No to Surgery

The introduction of national thyroid cancer screening in South Korea led to a 15-fold increase in diagnoses and a corresponding explosion of operations—but no difference in mortality rates. This is a prime example of over-diagnosis that’s contributing to bloated health care costs.



November 25 • 6:00 AM

The Long War Between Highbrow and Lowbrow

Despise The Avengers? Loathe the snobs who despise The Avengers? You’re not the first.


November 25 • 4:00 AM

Are Women More Open to Sex Than They Admit?

New research questions the conventional wisdom that men overestimate women’s level of sexual interest in them.


November 25 • 2:00 AM

The Geography of Innovation, or, Why Almost All Japanese People Hate Root Beer

Innovation is not a product of population density, but of something else entirely.


November 24 • 4:00 PM

Federal Reserve Announces Sweeping Review of Its Big Bank Oversight

The Federal Reserve Board wants to look at whether the views of examiners are being heard by higher-ups.



November 24 • 2:00 PM

That Catcalling Video Is a Reminder of Why Research Methods Are So Important

If your methods aren’t sound then neither are your findings.


November 24 • 12:00 PM

Yes, Republicans Can Still Win the White House

If the economy in 2016 is where it was in 2012 or better, Democrats will likely retain the White House. If not, well….


November 24 • 11:36 AM

Feeling—Not Being—Wealthy Cuts Support for Economic Redistribution

A new study suggests it’s relative wealth that leads people to oppose taxing the rich and giving to the poor.


Follow us


Attitudes About Race Affect Actions, Even When They Don’t

Tiny effects of attitudes on individuals' actions pile up quickly.

Geography, Race, and LOLs

The online lexicon spreads through racial and ethnic groups as much as it does through geography and other traditional linguistic measures.

Feeling—Not Being—Wealthy Cuts Support for Economic Redistribution

A new study suggests it's relative wealth that leads people to oppose taxing the rich and giving to the poor.

Sufferers of Social Anxiety Disorder, Your Friends Like You

The first study of friends' perceptions suggest they know something's off with their pals but like them just the same.

Standing Up for My Group by Kicking Yours

Members of a minority ethnic group are less likely to express support for gay equality if they believe their own group suffers from discrimination.

The Big One

One in two United States senators and two in five House members who left office between 1998 and 2004 became lobbyists. November/December 2014

Copyright © 2014 by Pacific Standard and The Miller-McCune Center for Research, Media, and Public Policy. All Rights Reserved.