LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - Surveillance photos of suspected criminals creeping around on porches and checking car door handles are dominating much of social media and apps like NextDoor.
While it is a good way to keep your neighbors informed, you may want to hold off on posting or you could find yourself in a courtroom facing defamation charges.
"The business for cameras has probably increased 300 percent,” explained Bill Burgess, Vice President at Interactive Security Solutions.
What was once a luxury most couldn't afford is now affordable and more common than ever before.
"If you want just one or two cameras, we have a service that stores everything on the cloud," Burgess said. "You're looking at just a few hundred dollars and you're done.”
Five to ten years ago, those same services would have set you back by about $2,500.
But what was once used to prosecute is now being posted on social media, warning neighbors about suspected thieves. And that's where you could get into trouble according to attorney Benjamin McCorkle.
"If you give the impression this person is indeed guilty of a crime or something, then you could have defamed them,” he said.
He has defended people accused of defaming others online. He said your best defense is the facts.
"If you just said, 'I took this picture of these people in front of my house, jiggling the door, I don't know what they were up to, but I don't think there was anything good there,' you're probably okay," he explained. "If you say, 'These people were here jiggling my door trying to break in to my house an steal property,' then you're going beyond the pale."
One Little Rock resident, Eric Caldwell, is getting cameras installed at his home after multiple car break-ins.
"You get so tired of your vehicles being broken into at night and you want to know who's doing it," he said.
He has posted warning photos to the Next Door app in the past and said he doesn't plan on stopping.
"You're dadgum right," he exclaimed. "Sue me for libel? Good luck."
McCorkle said if it came to that you’d probably suffer legal headaches, but chances are high the homeowner would win.
"They're on your property, they're trespassing," McCorkle said. "They're on your property without permission. Coming up and jiggling your door handle might not rise to a criminal offense, but it's trespassing on your property and a civil defense."
The rules are much different if you catch someone out in the street or on the sidewalk doing something you think is suspicious. Rather than post those pictures, McCorkle said those are best shared with police.
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