Why CCTV Cameras are Only as Good as the Person Operating Them

by Dan

It’s not good enough to simply install CCTV cameras and expect them to do the job you want overnight. Nor is it necessarily the right decision to install more cameras where crime is going undetected by cameras already in place.

The story of a shopkeeper plagued by vandalism ably demonstrates this. His premises were surrounded by CCTV cameras, yet every week the roof was attacked and vandalised with a variety of anti-social offences committed. This carried on for several months, and his assumption was that the security cameras did not work. He was at a loss as to what to do, but after discussing the situation with the security firm responsible for camera management the vandalism soon stopped. It appeared that the problems only occurred on a Saturday night, and weren’t picked up by camera because all the cameras were pointed toward the street. Security guards in the control room were told to direct a single camera onto the roof of the shop at the offending hours: cheaper than buying new cameras and just as effective.

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How you can get the best out of your security cameras

In a survey of offenders (published by Horne in 1998), only 24.1{71b550cbed0aca3fea2335d26076176dc834a5ad6e765af844b2cea64fe7483b} of offenders said they would have committed the crime had they known security cameras to be operational. But the above story also shows that the existence of security cameras isn’t enough on its own to deter crime. The answer is to ensure that cameras are operated effectively by the people managing them.

Here are four ways in which to make sure your CCTV cameras are doing the job you bought them to do:

1. Audit where they are most needed

Give thought to where your premises are most vulnerable. This may involve discussing with a security consultant who has local and specialised knowledge, and should include how areas are used and by whom.

Regular audits should monitor rates of crime before and after installation, and include how control room operators run the system.

When undertaking such security audits, consideration should also be given to which cameras need to be monitored ‘live’. These are likely to be the areas of highest security risk, and will be different for different businesses. Lower risk areas can be recorded and watched on playback as and when needed.

2. Vandalproof your security cameras

Vandal-proofing CCTV cameras are a must. Placing protective coverings around them, or positioning them high up will help in efforts to guard against destruction, either by mindless vandalism or wilful destruction by criminals who would rather they weren’t being watched.

3. Ensure adequate lighting

Cameras only take effective images if the subject is lit correctly. Whether such lighting is constant or activated by motion control, it is imperative that lighting exists.

4. Train monitoring staff

While many assume that monitoring of CCTV in control rooms requires nothing more than sitting in front of a television screen, the reality is very different. Operators have to be aware of laws and regulations which govern the use of CCTV cameras, as well as have a level of technical expertise which allows them to operate cameras and recording systems effectively. Operators have to know how to gather and record evidence as well as maintain equipment to ensure it is fit-for-purpose.

In conclusion

CCTV cameras act as a deterrent to would-be criminals. They operate 24 hours a day, every day of the year. They don’t go to sleep, or take lunch, or daydream. However, a camera is a passive instrument unless it is operated to best effect and in line with best practice.

This best practice includes ensuring that you locate and operate your CCTV cameras in accordance with current laws and regulations. While the training of staff should ensure their proper use, it is worth putting someone in charge of monitoring changing laws and how they affect on-site security. For example, there are laws which govern the use of security cameras in residential areas or where those cameras may overlook another’s property. You may also find it necessary to place warning signs in prominent positions, giving notice to passers-by that may otherwise object to their photo being taken. The Office of the Australian Information Commisioner website is a good place to start to stay one step ahead in yoru planning.

When making an investment in security cameras, first consider all the needs you want to address before considering where those needs must be addressed. Then ensure your investment is made and maintained within the law. And always remember: the effectiveness of your security relies on the effectiveness of its operators.

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