More and more parents are investing in baby monitors as a safe way to keep an eye on their infants and toddlers. But in some cases activating a baby monitor can do more harm than good.
We experienced the dangers of baby monitors first hand by powering up a baby monitor in a car and driving around a Long Island neighborhood.
Within in five minutes we got our first hit, an empty baby crib, which popped up on our baby monitor screen. The more we drove the more cribs our receiver picked up. Some cribs were empty but some had babies inside of them.
Many baby monitors also have an audio feature so with our baby monitor we could listen to what was happening inside of the home.
We parked outside of Nassau County resident Renee McNulty’s home and with our baby monitor heard her children playing and a conversation she was having on the telephone even though we were more than 200 feet away in a parked car.
She had left the camera from her baby monitor on and it was transmitting that video and information which our baby monitor picked up.
"I had no clue until you guys knocked on my door and said we could see your baby crib and it's scary," said McNulty.
There's nothing special about the baby monitor we bought. It ‘s a standard model that costs just $99. But what it does do is expose the danger many parents are bringing into their homes.
“There's a lot of child pedophiles out there and you never know which house they're living in and if they have a picture of your child they know there's a baby living in there," said McNulty.
It’s information and images not only perverts could access but also burglars.
"He knows every conversation you're having, he knows what time you're leaving the house for dinner or for the wedding. He knows when you're going to be home and when you're not going to be home," says Detective Sergeant Devin Ross from the Nassau County Police Department.
Ross runs the department’s electronics squad ,which is responsible for surveillance. He says many baby monitors transmit sound and video on a very simple frequency, too simple.
"The problem is that in that common frequency range 2.4 GHZ, most of the baby monitors only have four channel options,” says Ross.
Many of the affordable monitors don't have a digital lock, so if it's on the monitor can be transmitting hundreds of feet outside of the home.
In one neighborhood an infant sleeping inside of a crib popped up on our monitor – and it wasn't too hard for us to find the exact location.
"Little scary. Don't know what to say. I'm watching him move and you're watching him in the car. That's crazy,” said new dad and Nassau County resident Steve Penagos, who was stunned when we showed him how we could see his child from inside our vehicle.
Like many parents, Penagos turns off the receiver when he's not using the baby monitor but leaves on the camera. That’s a big mistake.
Det. Sgt. Ross advises parents to buy a baby monitor with a single digital channel. And he recommends you look for a security guarantee on the box.
If you already have a baby monitor he says the monitor and camera should be turned off when not being used, and to never point the camera at a wide space which would show a burglar the inside of your home.
"The monitor is on the whole time plugged in we turn off our monitor but we don't turn off that [camera] so they would know if we're home or not. Scary really scary," said Penagos.