Help me feel more secure

Here’s the deal: The Episcopal Church I am a leader of is having problems with window breakage on two sides of the building. There is an apartment complex across the street filled with children who play in the street and kick soccer balls, occasionally hitting expensive stained glass windows. Not only are these windows expensive, but they are also high up and hard to reach . What I am looking for are a couple of outside cameras that I can perhaps monitor from my cell phone. Our budget isn’t high and we don’t want to be tied down to some service contract with a security company.
Any suggestions?

What are you trying to accomplish? It sounds like you think that children who live in the apartment complex are accidentally breaking your windows sometimes. So let’s say you find an affordable security system that identifies exactly who kicked the ball that broke a window.* What’s your next step?

*Which seems a little unlikely to me. My broke-ass institution has security cameras but they generally don’t identify individuals extremely clearly if they aren’t close to the cameras. Plus, even if the picture is clear you will then have to suss out, “hah, that was little Jimmy Walker in Apartment 3B.”

Might not a visible security system deter them a bit? If you have a better idea, I’m all ears.

I know this isn’t ideal esthetically, but one solution would be to install bars over the windows. The bars would withstand the soccer balls, protecting the windows.

Or cover the windows on the outside with plexiglass or lexan. That’s what the church across the street from our house has. I actually did it to a couple of our windows to protect them and serve as storm windows – made the room noticeably warmer in the winter.

I will definitely look into that possibility.
In the meantime, are there any decent outdoor cameras that are inexpensive and can be linked to a cell phone?

I’m afraid that for your use case “affordable” cameras won’t do you much good.

If you want to see the face of the person ringing your doorbell there are plenty of options, if you want to read a number plate of a car in front of a gate: plenty of options.

If you want to ID someone somewhere in the picture you run into issues with focus and resolution. Ideally you want to know where the thing you want to record is. If you do not you’ll need good quality surveillance camera’s that can usefully cover a larger area.

You can of course install camera looking things for the deterrent factor. Just don’t expect useful pictures.

Another vote for the lexan/plexiglass.

Thinking outside the box here…

Placed strategically in front of the windows (i.e., to allow some light through to illuminate them), they would offer a measure of thematically-appropriate corporeal protection from stray soccer balls (not sure about spiritual protection - be sure to check the warranty before buying).

My mom got a Blink camera which does what you’re asking. I think it’s only $3/mo for service (with a month or two free).

I agree with @The_Librarian that an affordable (ie cheap) camera won’t do you much good if the point is to be able to identify the culprits. However, it sounds like you are looking mostly for a deterrent effect. If that’s what you want, and you wouldn’t pursue a guilty person anyway, just go with whatever is cheap and highly visible.

If the point of the camera is deterrence, who cares if it IDs the kids. Who cares if it talks to your phone, or works at all. Just buy a broken camera off ebay or something, and mount it. Don’t bother to connect it to anything.

And meanwhile, shop for lexan or bars, because those will actually fix the problem.

Lexan maybe, but I don’t think I can get app0roval for placing bars outside stained glass windows on a church.

Well, Meraki makes a pretty decent outdoor camera that will use WiFi to connect. They will record to a SIM card, so if you lose connection the data will still be on the system, and they have a decent resolution at a fairly decent price (IIRC, something like $1200.00 per camera). If that’s too rich for your organization, I have the Blink camera system at my home. Again, it uses WiFi to connect, but it doesn’t have an onboard SIM, instead of using a secondary device (you can put a USB memory stick in it to extend its storage which is kind of cool). They are cheaper, but the resolution isn’t as good.

Those are the two ends of the low-end spectrum I can think of off the top of my head, FWIW. Good luck!

Arlo has some, I looked into it but never purchased. They have cameras that connect to wi-fi, and a different one battery operated one that connects to a cellular phone network (better for remote areas as long as there’s some signal).

Have you considered consulting an architect about how to protect the windows? Architects know such things~or at least know who does.

Does your state have any architectural preservation/ history societies? They might know who to consult or what has worked locally. In my Midwestern middling-sized city, what I see is plexiglass.

Measure twice, cut once on the cameras being a deterrent, especially since you think the breakage is accidental. About a month after the cameras go up and become visible, the kids are going to notice, “hey, nothing is happening to any of us, so let’s try to bust stuff. Cameras? We don’t care about any stinkin’ cameras.”

I’ve got a couple of the Arlos at home. They run on rechargeable batteries so you don’t need to run wires but you do need to be able to access them every 3-5 months to take them down to recharge.
You do need wi-fi to run them and you can view them any time on your phone using their app. No monthly fee.
They can be set to record when detecting motion. They also use night vision.

If all you want is deterrence, you can get fake security cameras quite cheaply. These even have an LED light so they won’t be overlooked at night.

Update: I just got out of the BAC(Bishop’s Advisory Committee) meeting, where I passed on your good advice about clear window coverings and fake cameras. They thought both ideas were great, so I’ll be going in both those directions. The BAC of St. Andrew’s Episcopal thanks y’all very much.