Mr. Akins flipped the lights on in the back office of the motel.
A scrawny, young trainee named Robbie sheepishly trailed him.
“And here,” said the old manager, “is our set of eyes.”
He motioned at an unassuming box about the size of a home
computer, sitting on a shelf next to a large LCD monitor.
“So, what does it do?” Robbie asked.
The old manager explained to the young trainee that the motor
lodge sometimes had to contend with less than savory guests.
Because the staff couldn’t be everywhere at once, the owner
bought the digital video recorder.
Instead of having to sift through hours and hours of videotape, the
system recorded everything to a quiet hard drive.
“We’ve got four cameras set up,” said Mr. Akins, “and it gets ’em
“So, it’s kind of like a TiVo?” asked the boy.
“Son, I don’t know what a TiVo is, but I’d call it more of a
Columbo,” said Mr. Akins.
He explained how, a few weeks earlier, someone had broken into a
few of the guest rooms in the middle of the night. As soon as the
first guest reported something missing, at about 4 a.m., Mr.
Akins called the sheriff and the motel’s owner, who lived about a
forty-five minute drive away.
Akins told the boy how the motel’s owner was able to log in to
the security recorder from his house, using the Internet. Because
motion sensors trigger the recorder, the owner didn’t have to
wade through hours of useless footage. Based on the time frame
that the guest provided, the owner selected a set of trigger
Within a few minutes, he found clips of a likely suspect, and
e-mailed them to the sheriff’s office and to the media. By the
time the morning news hit the airwaves at 6 a.m., law enforcement
knew the thief’s name and the news anchor was playing those clips
to solicit tips.
“We had that boy in custody by lunchtime,” bragged the manager.
“And with Columbo here keeping track of everything around
here, I get to start taking some nights off!”
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