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Help! Someone Put Tape (or Gum) on my Ring Doorbell Camera

Picture it – you’re sitting at work and wondering why your Ring Doorbell alerts haven’t gone off so much as once. You know the mailman always comes around 10 am, and you’ve got at least one delivery coming, and that one dog runs across your lawn at the exact time each morning – so what gives?

You get home and soon realize why – someone put tape over your Ring Doorbell sensor. The audacity! Now you’ve got a rather ‘sticky’ situation, and a missing package that Amazon says was delivered, complete with picture. Now what?

How do you get your Doorbell cam back to normal, and prevent this from happening in the future?

What Are Ring Cameras & Doorbells?

The Ring Stick Up Cam installed outdoors.
The Ring Stick Up Cam installed outdoors.

Ring is a smart home manufacturer that has created a plethora of smart home products. Their line of products includes cameras, video doorbells, smart lighting, and even an alarm system. Most of the devices Ring makes, aids in keeping the inside and outside of your home secure.

Ring’s smart cameras and video doorbells are their best-selling products.

Ring Doorbell with blue spinning circle showing it is still being setup
Ring Doorbell with blue spinning circle showing it is still being setup

They allow you to keep an eye on your home even when you’re not there. Via the Ring app, you can set up how you want your home’s perimeter monitored. Motion Detection zones, for example, allow you to choose where your camera detects and records motion.

Ring Motion Zones
Ring Motion Zones

You can also set up how and when you receive alerts, as well as view any videos your cameras have recorded. It’s important to note, that unless you subscribe to a Ring Protect Plan, your Ring cameras will not store any Motion-Detected event videos. You’ll still get alerts, but unless you view them Live, you won’t know what happened to trigger those alerts.

Most Ring devices run on the 2.4 GHz band of Wi-Fi, with a couple of exceptions. A couple of the Floodlight cam models can also use the 5 GHz band, and the Video Doorbell Elite uses PoE, or Power over Ethernet. The PoE cameras use an Ethernet connection for the internet as well as for power.

Ring cameras and video doorbells have become indispensable tools for keeping the modern smart home safe. But what happens if something happens to them, as in, someone defaces them?

Tape/Gum On Your Sensor – Now what?

Someone putting brown tape over a Ring Doorbell
Someone putting brown tape over a Ring Doorbell

So what happens when someone decides to have the audacity to mess with your cameras?

Well, step one is to remove it, and as gently as possible. If the substance is something like scotch tape or masking tape, they’re relatively easy to remove without much (if any) adhesive left behind on your cameras. 

If there is a bit of residue left behind, you can use wipes to clean the lens and camera off. Not just any wipes will do, however. Use those that are designed to clean computer screens or eyeglasses. But what happens if the substance left on your cameras is too sticky for wipes?

Stores like Home Depot and Lowes sell a number of products designed to safely remove adhesive from surfaces even as sensitive as electronics. Goo Gone and Goof Off are two popular products used for this purpose.

You simply place some of the product on a scratch-free cloth or soft tissue (paper towels can be too abrasive) and rub that on the affected area. It can be a hassle, especially if it’s gum or another very strong adhesive like Gorilla or Duct tape – but with patience and gentle abrasion, you’ll be able to remove the gooey substance.

Now that you’ve cleaned off your cameras, no doubt you want to find out who had the nerve to do this to your cameras in the first place. This is especially the case if they happened to steal something off your property, or even vandalize another part of your property. So how do you go about finding the suspect?

Identifying Vandalizers

Someone standing right next to a Ring Doorbell
Someone standing right next to a Ring Doorbell

This may unfortunately be easier said than done, depending on what stage of the vandalism you can catch the perpetrator’s face, as well as when your camera started recording. If they placed the substance on the camera before the camera could catch their face, this makes things harder

Sometimes you may only get the few seconds prior to the act of vandalism, leaving you with little to nothing to go on as to their identity . This may be due, in part, to a slow connection. The camera started recording late, and didn’t catch their face, or the image was distorted.

It might also be due to pre-roll, which is where Ring devices add 2-6 seconds of extra footage to the start of a video clip. But not all of Ring’s cameras and doorbells offer this feature.

Adjustments in your Motion Detection settings may also be the culprit. The vandal may have approached from an angle that wasn’t included in your Motion Detection zones, or was included in your Privacy Zones.

Ring Privacy Zones
Ring Privacy Zones

If your camera didn’t catch the vandal – what now?

Do you live within a reasonable distance from neighbors, where they might have been able to see the vandalism without obstructions from walls or bushes dividing property? You may be able to ask them if they heard or saw anything. This can be met with a measure of success depending on how observant they are, if they were home – and if they care

If you can’t find out who it was via your camera or neighbors, unfortunately, there’s little else you can do at that point. But perhaps you can identify the suspect – what then? 

Pursuing the Perpetrator

An obscured view of a Ring Doorbell after someone put tape over it
An obscured view of a Ring Doorbell after someone put tape over it

If you’re able to get a clear view of the vandal’s face either via the app, or neighbors, you have a couple of options. These may or may not be met with real resolution, but it’s worth it if a criminal is on the loose and needs to be caught.

One of your first options, is to take the recording of the video that identified the vandal, and post it on the Ring Neighbors Community. This may be met with limited success as many neighbors post a lot of not-so-useful info (i.e. ‘a squirrel ransacked my bird feeder today!’), so people may overlook this. Still, if someone has had a similar experience, it may be enough for police to open an investigation, especially if they’re doing more than defacing smart cameras.

Neighbors by Ring app on the Google Play store
Neighbors by Ring app on the Google Play store

In terms of police, this is your second option. Reaching out to the police, especially if something was stolen or broken on your property, is another step you can take. This too may be met with limited success depending on how well the person can be identified, as well as what they did. If they didn’t steal anything nor deface anything besides your camera, the police may not take much action.

However, if you can get enough evidence, and other victims to get together, the vandal could very well be caught. In the meantime, though, how do you prevent this from happening again?

Preventing Future Ring Camera Defacement

Two people standing under lots of bullet CCTV cameras
The solution: install a couple of extra (hundred) cameras. Just kidding!

Nothing can 100% prevent this – people will unfortunately be people. However, there are a couple of preventative measures you can take.

One way to make it harder for people to vandalize your cameras is by mounting them up higher. This gives you a great vantage point so that even if someone were to have extra audacity and climb up to get your cameras, you’ll get an eyeful of them (unless they have a mask on) and be able to describe them to police.

For the less determined/motivated criminals, the camera being situated up higher will be a discouragement and the hope is that they’ll simply move on to an easier target.

Another option some use, are plastic boxes that are locked, such as trail camera boxes designed for cameras that are on nature trails. They have a key so that they can’t be opened unless the key is available. This option is a bit tricky as there’s no guarantee you’ll find one that will fit your Ring camera or doorbell so that they can still record properly. Even if you do, this option can present a couple of problems:

  1. For one, even the clearest of plastic boxes or clear lenses on those boxes, may give a distorted view when reviewing your camera footage.
  2. Second, whenever your cameras require recharging or you need to replace the battery, the extra step of unlocking a box can become quite annoying. 

Some users have found that installing a second camera in the vicinity, but somewhat hidden, helps in seeing if someone comes to deface the first camera. At best, the camera will catch a vandal in the act without them knowing. At worst, it’s at risk for being found and tampered with as well.

Protecting Your Cameras

Hopefully you never have to worry about someone defacing your camera. However, if you do, fortunately there are a couple of things you can do to remedy the situation, and perhaps prevent it from happening again.

But at the end of the day, things happen, so being prepared is one of the best steps to take.

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