High Tech Tools of the Trade
Electronic tools CrimeFighters can use, such as cellular phones and
camcorders, rapidly and constantly improve. This chapter is intended to
up-to-date on new high tech equipment and current prices.
The most important piece of equipment for CrimeFighters is a cellular
between the store's regular price without the 12-month service contract.
Discounts a few years ago amounted to as much as $300, lowering the price
of a cellular phone to about $200.
Cellular phones are basically radio transmitters, with limited power up to
three watts. Because of the relatively low power for long-distance trans-
missions, receiver/transmitter/relay stations called "cells" are situated
along popular corridors beside freeways and major highways. Cells overlap
to form a relay when you progress through one cell to another. That makes
t possible to use them in cars. These cells hand-off (relay) the conver-
Excerpts from the Toronto Globe and Mail: "Telesat Mobile, Inc. has reached
an agreement with French-based Arianespace to launch a satellite in 1994
the satellite is in operation, individuals using portable computers,
to send and receive messages throughout North America... the satellites
The receiver/transmitter/relay stations are serviced by firms who charge
for the service. Cellular One, of Yuma, Arizona, has the following:
V.I.P Plan -- for low volume users -- charges a flat monthly rate of $29.95
for basic service called an access fee, whether you use the phone or not.
costs an extra 38 cents per minute during peak air time (from 7 a.m. to 7
cents per minute. There is no free air time.
The Business Plan is for higher usage. The monthly access fee is $59.95,
for the access fee allows 100 minutes of free air time. Actually, the "free
air time" cost $30, or at a packaged rate of 30 cents per minute for extra
air time. If you use the phone frequently during business hours, this plan
The Executive Plan is for busy people who use the phone a lot -- like a
business executive. Monthly access fee is $99.95, peak rate is 32 cents and
the off-peak rate is 18 cents, plus you get 240 free minutes of air time.
Or the 240 minutes cost $70 per month more than V.I.P. service, and the
"free" air time of 240 minutes cost 29 cents a minute -- whether it's peak
You are charged for air time whether you make an outgoing call or someone
calls you. Since you pay for air time when people call you on your cellular
business necessity (or you can afford large phone bills). If you're a
you're not looking, the extra charge for air time can cost a bundle. Keep
and use a regular phone besides the cellular phone. Reserve the cellular
Long distance calls are still put through as long distance calls. Your call
s picked up by the nearest cell and connected to a long distance telephone
line in that cell. You are then charged regular long distance rates in
addition to air time. The long distance connection allows you make calls to
virtually anywhere in the world. (The downside: you get stuck for the air
time when people call you long distance -- even wrong numbers.)
Regular telephone features, such as call waiting, call forwarding, call
transfer, no-answer transfer, no-busy call forward, and 3-way conference
calling, are available for an extra $2.50 for each feature, or $6 per month
for 3 or more. There's dozens of various hardware features for cellular
Radio Shack Deals
Radio Shack in Yuma uses Contel Cellular phone service, which has slightly
minute, off-peak time rate is 20 cents per minute, and no free time. But
Radio Shack charges a $25 "activate" fee to program the phone to you new
telephone number, etc. The latter is a one-time only fee, unless you change
The difference between Cellular One and Contel is insignificant. For
example, let's say you use the cellular phone strictly for emergencies and
CrimeFighter calls which might total about 30 minutes per month. For simple
calculation, assume you use the phone 50% of the time during peak time and
Your costs for Cellular One: $29.95 monthly service fee, plus 15 minutes at
Your costs for Contel: $30 monthly service fee, plus 15 minutes at 40 cents
= $6, plus 15 minutes at 20 cents = $3, or a total of $39 per month.
Chain stores like Radio Shack are numerous and convenient. If you have
mechanical problems, they'll fix or replace the instrument. Other models
may have to be sent to a repair depot and may take weeks to get it back.
The second most valuable piece of equipment for CrimeFighters is also the
most expensive, about $1,000 or so. They aren't essential, but videotapes
committing a crime. If you're serious about being a full time CrimeFighter
you'll want one sooner or later. I'll skip the mechanical description and
concentrate on the models and features available.
VHS format is the most popular. Beta models are obsolete. Sony has a "new"
Beta format called Extended Definition (ED) Beta. This one's disadvantages
outweigh its advantages for CrimeFighter use. Forget Beta models.
VHS Camcorders (cameras) are available in standard format, compact format
VHS-C, Super VHS, and 8mm. Compact models are usually marked as VHS-C. The
cartridge and camera are smaller and lighter in weight. The tradeoff is
they have a smaller amount of recording time available, about twenty
minutes at the fastest speed (which makes a better picture) and ninety
minutes at the slowest recording speed. A cartridge adapter allows the use
of compact tape cartridges in a standard VCR. The adapter sells for about
$40 via mail order. The limited recording time is a tradeoff for lighter
S-VHS produces a super high-resolution image which provides a much better
Eight millimeter tapes and cameras are the smallest and lightest. Recording
time is about two hours, the same as standard VHS models. A small drawback
(or benefit) is, in 8mm format, the camcorder is also the VCR playback
machine. You hook up the camcorder to play back through your TV -- like
At the time of this writing, the top of the line was a Sony EVC-X10. Radio
Shack or similar stores won't have them because of its unusual features
(for professionals) and its price. It listed for $3,900 (1989). Street
That lets stores offer discounts. The markup on Camcorders is about 25%,
The Sony EVC-X10 is an 8mm video camera recorder. The main feature is that
t accepts any C-mount video or photographic lens, including wide angle,
can record a close-up of your subject a block or two away from the camera.
Compact and lightweight, the Sony EVC-X10 features a high density (420k
lens may improve low light performance); an auto and manual iris control;
adjustable high precision external view finder; simultaneous time/date
variable speed shutter from 1/60 to 1/2000 of a second. Additional features
nclude a built-in mike, battery lamp, audio/ visual output jacks with RFU
nput (for CamEar zoom or directional mikes), 11 function external LCD
advance. It also comes with an attachable pistol grip and shoulder frame to
ncrease balance and comfort, but it also mounts on a standard video tripod
- handy for stakeouts.
When you can afford it, get this one or its successor model. Ask your local
$1,499 (1989). They are available from Tandy's subsidiary stores, Video
Concepts, which are located in many cities throughout the United States.
They had them on sale last year for $1,299.
long-range zoom recording, and needed for automobile use when on the move
or in moving surveillance: a High Speed shutter; and a carrying case.
Also available for the PV760 is a four-piece electronic mike. It consists
of two microphones: One is a pen mike; one is a concealable bow tie mike.
The receiver slides on to the camcorder to plug the sound into the camcord-
er as you tape the action. Another receiver can be attached to your belt,
or on another person who needs to hear what's going on -- or going down.
Update: Seen in a (1992) VIDEO BUYERS GUIDE. A $1,200 Hitachi VM-E25A 8mm
camcorder with a 1:8 normal Zoom plus digital Zoom that boosts it by a
factor of 8 to obtain 64 Zoom.
The VM-E25A is very small, lightweight, easily fits in one hand, and has
all kinds of options and accessories as standard, plus optional equipment.
For surveillance work, you can replace the standard (removable) lens with a
The camera lens gives clearer pictures than the (electronic) digital zoom
(although the digital zoom is clear enough until you get around 32 power).
At 64 digital Zoom, the pictures get fuzzy. By changing the lens to (say) 5
Some camcorders, like the Panasonic 660, ($948) which has a 1:12 Zoom plus
can get (theoretically) up to 480 magnification.
At strong magnification, you need a solid rest or tripod to eliminate the
the Zoom factor. An image stabilizer feature would be a must for this kind
of long distance recording.
Lux, or Candle Light
All camcorders are rated with a lux designation. One lux is equivalent to
one candle power. Theoretically, a one lux camera can take a picture when
there is a brightness of one candle one foot away lighting the object.
Manufacturer's claims are not always the same as performance. Aside from
that comment, you can use the lux rating of a camera as a pretty good
ndicator of its ability to make a reasonably clear picture under less
than perfect light.
For undercover work, a one- or two-lux rated camera is best. It will
always equal. The lens has a lot to do with picture clarity: a camcorder
quality than a camcorder rated two lux but has poor quality lens. If you
can, lease a couple of cameras for a day or two and compare results. Try
before you buy, or try to get a money-back option.
Zoom Lens and Telephoto Adapters
The next important requirement of a camcorder for a CrimeFighter is to take
least six-to-one zoom, but newer models have 12-to-one, variable-power
zoom. Digital zoom (microcomputer technology) increases the lens zoom by a
factor of 8. A 1:12 zoom with digital = 64, a 12;1 lens zoom with digital
zoom = 96.
angle lens to increase the magnification and field of view. A 12:1 lens
zoom, with a 5 X telephoto lens makes it 60:1. Add digital zoom of 8 power
to get (theoretically) 60:480 zoom. Of course, you'd have to have a steady
mount to suppress the small movement of shaking hands which would also be
multiplied. However, some cameras have a "stabilizer" that acts like a
"fuzzy logic" (artificial intelligence software). As the years go by, more
and more improvements will be made on high tech equipment. Always ask.
Telephoto lens vary in cost from about $60 to $300 each. The thing to watch
out for when buying a camera is whether or not the lens cover lip (or no
lip) on the camera will prevent you from attaching telephoto lens to the
camera. Ask knowledgeable store clerks and browse through Camcorder mag-
azines in supermarket magazine racks for information on where to purchase
cameras and accessories.
The ability to focus through window glass is important because lots of
movies will be made through closed car windows. Focusing systems that use
any form of sonar or infrared to "find" the subject will be bounced off
the glass. That makes it difficult to use for covert surveillance work.
Opening the window may not always be possible. Be sure to get a camera
that has a manual focusing override control. (The EVC-X10 has a manual
override control.) Through-the-lens (TTL) viewfinders are recommended for
through window glass (inside-outside) surveillance. Talk to your local
Wiretapping is illegal, but not if you are making a recording of a crime in
made for their own protection. With that in mind, external microphone jacks
on a camcorder are a necessity. Most have them, but look for that feature.
There's a "CamEar" (Camera Ear) that provides an audio zoom for video
camcorders. (about $70 from Silver Creek Industries, 1-800-533-3277.)
Quite a few other zoom and wireless microphones for long distance pickup
Franklin Square, N.Y. 11010, phone # (516) 328-7500.
Time and Date
This is usually a standard feature, but look for it, because it may be
mportant to date-stamp the time and day when the tape was made.
Instructions on How to Buy and Use a Camcorder
Video tapes on "How to Make Video Tapes" and books on this subject can be
found in the advertising pages of most Camcorder magazines. Here's a few
books to get you started: "The Video Camcorder Handbook -- How to Select
and Use a Camcorder -- Any Brand or Format" ($14.95), and a companion book,
"Pro Techniques of Making Home Video Movies" ($12.95), "How to Understand
the Multitude of Video Products" ($12.95) and "Basic Instruction on Making
Home Video Movies" ($9.85). Many video stores have video catalogs to locate
any video you want to special order. Ask them for a rental/purchase option.
Radio Shack had a $788 special on camcorders recently. It offered their
Model 126 MovieCorder, a VHS, two-lux, 12-power variable zoom camera. It
there will (probably) be repeat sales in the future. If you don't have the
cash, you can buy it on time payments at $25 per month. If you can't afford
the expensive models, this one or a similar one may be sufficient. Radio
Shack's hand-held cellular phone, model CT-1033, has 3 watts of power for
maximum output. It's also available on time payments for $15 a month. So,
for about $40 a month you can get the two most important pieces of equip-
ment from a local Radio Shack store.
Electronic Surveillance Equipment
Be advised that unless you have legal authorization for a wiretap, using
conversation with permission from one of the parties of the conversation
being recorded. The other exception is when a criminal action is observed.
Recording the incriminating conversation between criminals actually
committing a crime is not a violation of an innocent person's civil rights.
When you're working on a case with law enforcement officials, wiretap
authorization may be obtained. If so, the appropriate equipment may also
be available. However, if their surveillance equipment is old, worn out,
or obsolete, a CrimeFighter may prefer to use personal electronic equipment
to get reliable results. In that case, you may want to know what's
available and where to get it. Instead of trying to include and describe
the hundreds of devices and miscellaneous equipment that's mentioned in
many catalogs, I'll just refer you to the catalogs and where to get them.
Most are free, but a few require two or three dollars to pay for the
Southampton, Pennsylvania 18966 (215) 357-9065. This company sells quite
a few camcorder models, including the SONY EVC-X7 and X10, plus attachments
and disguises for camcorders used in undercover surveillance. They have a
an extensive library of unusual books on various subjects. The company was
founded by Security Professionals and is recognized as one of the leading
number given) has a catalog ($1) that seems to specialize on books and
equipment on radio frequency registries, hand held (cellular phone)
operations, cryptography, electronic surveillance, countermeasures,
espionage, and computer hacking.
audio jamming equipment, voice scramblers for phones, and quite a bit more.
made of light-weight Kevlar. Their vest, front or back ($190) or full wrap
around coverage ($230), will (so they say) defeat a .45, .357, 00 buckshot,
and 9mm handgun rounds. If you think you might need one, ask for their
literature and current prices.
catalog of miniature radio transmitter/receivers (bugs) and bug detectors,
telephone "snoops", telephone recorders, vehicle tracking transmitters, and
voice disguisers. If you're into hi-tech electronics, printed circuit
boards and electronic kits are available to make your own. They also have
assembled and tested units for the not-so-handy.
The disclaimer in XANDI's catalog is typical of catalogs containing
llegal-to-use equipment or technical information on locks picks or how to
"The products listed in this catalog are intended to be educational only.
They are aimed at the electronic hobbyist. Some of these products might be
used in situations that are illegal depending on State and Federal law.
and, in fact, strongly recommends against the illegal use of any electronic
* * * * * *
Remember, the possession of illegal wiretap equipment or burglar tools is a
felony in most States. If you purchase any such items, don't get caught
using them or having them in your possession outside of your home under
"suspicious circumstances" unless you have a warrant or police approval.
(And get it in writing.).
(Feedback from readers who have these camcorders and related equipment will
be appreciated. I'd also like to hear from vendors of this equipment, who
may provide CrimeFighters with suitable discounts. I'll add your comments
and suggestions to the next version of this Crimefighter book.)
F9 for next Chapter