Stopping Crime and Saving a Forest

A case study about illegal dumping in Dallas, TX

by Tyler Sharp

In the spring of 2019, I was fortunate to be able to purchase 8 acres of untouched forest in Dallas city limits. There was so much potential in what could be done on this land, but it was, and still is, in pretty raw shape. There is now power or water, no perimeter fence, and the previous owner had left it alone for over 10 years, and it had become completely overgrown with invasive brush and vines. At the time I purchased it, I was living in Montana, and while I visited frequently to try and move my plans for the property forward, it is very difficult to manage this from over 1500 miles away. When COVID hit, it prevented me from visiting for awhile, and people started to illegally dump trash on the property, which I began to get city notices for, saying that they were going to fine me if the debris was not removed promptly. There were tires, bottles, old paint cans, electronics, shopping carts, and even an old bathtub.

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The problem continued to escalate until January of 2022 when a freeze came through Texas, and some homeless trespassers started a fire on my property and started to burn some of this trash to make a fire. But the fire grew out of control and quickly spread to burn more than just the trash, and took many trees with it. I got a call from the Dallas fire department while I was still in Montana informing me of the incident, and saying that I needed to take care of this issue before it got worse. So I started to do some research on what sort of options existed for solar security cameras, and thankfully came across VOSKER cameras. I reached out to their team to understand more of the capabilities of the cameras, especially considering my limitations of no power or wifi. They were super helpful and gave me advice on which cameras to use, and how to best approach the problem. We decided on 4 of their V200 models, which allow for recording video as well, and I placed them in strategic locations near the places where we had seen a lot of activity.

The results were almost immediate, as I was able to monitor any approaching cars or people almost as soon as it happened, and either go there myself, call a neighbor, or even the police in a few cases. It took a few weeks to a month to start breaking the habits of some of these criminals who had likely been dumping there for years, but the presence of the cameras alone started to deter cars from pulling up, and if they did, they didn’t stay very long. I was even able to capture a few license plates from trucks that backed into the driveway with trash in the back, then they saw the cameras, and sped away. While there are still a few people who have thrown things out the window as they drive by, for the most part these cameras have completely changed the situation for the better.

Once we had the property more secure, we could start to do some work on clearing brush, removing trash, and having debris hauled off. I was still having to coordinate and monitor this remotely, but being able to log into the VOSKER app on my phone or on the web browser allowed me to easily monitor who was showing up on theme, whether or not they were doing the correct work, and how long they worked for. This has been a huge advantage, as it keeps everybody honest, and they are now doing the work they said they would do, and I feel comfortable knowing that the work I am paying for is getting done. It has also been really satisfying to see the progress of the work when I can’t go visit, and I can tell what phase the clearing or mulching is in, and know when to visit the property to look at the progress.

 

Because there is no wifi yet, the ability for this to transfer over a cellular network has been a lifesaver, and I honestly don’t think I would’ve been able to continue with this project without these cameras. I installed the lithium batteries in them, and the bright Texas sun has kept those batteries charged almost the entire 3 months I’ve had them up. I had to move one camera due to lack of sun, but now that it is in a better place there are no issues, and it’s back up and running around the clock.

 

There is a lot of wildlife in the area, and while I have not been able to capture any of it on camera yet, I plan to move the cameras to a more open area in the coming months to see if I can get photos of deer, turkey or even the mountain lion that is rumored to be lurking around the area. The cameras are so versatile, and while there are some initial settings that you have to learn and adjust to get the optimal settings for whatever application you need them for, once they are set up and placed correctly they work like a dream, and it has given me so much peace of mind to be able to monitor from afar during my frequent travels. Just to be extra safe, I installed the metal security boxes with the cameras, as well as the cable locks, and it would be pretty difficult for someone to knock that camera down or steal it.

 

Overall, this is one of the best decisions I’ve made so far in this project, and I’m not really sure what I would’ve done without these cameras to help secure the property and get things under control. I’ve now been working with the city of Dallas, as they are having some of the same issues, and they are likely going to pursue the same route that I have and install VOSKER cameras on some of their properties near mine to work collectively and stop these environmental crimes, arson, trespassing and dumping.

A major thank you to the VOSKER team for working with me to find some solutions, and I look forward to working more closely with them as the project moves forward and the initiatives for the project change. Can’t recommend these cameras enough for anyone who has a remote property and wants to feel more confident and comfortable with the security of their place.

 

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