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Is Closed Circuit Television right for my business?

It is becoming increasingly common to go into any premises and see cameras apparently watching your every move. Many retail stores both large and small have installed CCTV equipment. Apartment buildings, entrances and exits to underground car-parks, banks and storage warehouses are all taking advantage of the digital revolution.

Before you purchase a closed circuit television system to install at your business premises, watch a Crimewatch program on television. See a crime taking place, and observe the value of what you could see. Remember that you are only seeing the select and better images from the incident. Too often the video quality is so poor that it is worthless. Police are continually confronted with unusable video images of crimes in progress.

When you consider the images that are often presented in the daily newspapers and consider that these have usually been enhanced you can see why the standard video image is being replaced by the higher quality of digital imaging available today.

Considering CCTV ? Ask yourself these questions:

Am I being realistic

Once installed, how much time am I prepared to spend looking at the monitor and watching recorded images?

Am I taking advice from a CCTV expert or am I dealing with a “CCTV cowboy”? It is important to realise that not all security companies who are experts in alarm systems are necessarily competent in CCTV design and installation. Have you just chosen the company because it is a large company in the security industry? Consider the overheads a large company has and the high turnover of staff they can expect, to a small company offering expertise in a narrow but highly technical field.

Before adding CCTV as a prevention strategy think about the following:

The four deciding factors for capital expenditure on CCTV are Deterrence, detection, Response, and peace of mind.

Deterrence

Remember watching Crimewatch and seeing the actual crime taking place. The criminal obviously did not know that CCTV is supposed to deter him from committing an offence. Not all robbers mind having their faces captured on video! It is surprising how many simply don’t care. No doubt they have watched Crimewatch as well and have noticed the lack of quality and how hard it is to identify an offender.

This of course is one of the major changes that the digital revolution has brought upon us. These images are now of real value and can be successfully frozen and played in slow replay and slow play modes to assist in identifying the offender.

Deterrence is more successful when the CCTV system is coupled with high visibility signage. Consideration should also be given to having a monitor showing selected images within the public view.

Detection

This can be like closing the door after the horse has bolted. You have been victimised and would like something done about it. If your equipment is working properly you have someone’s face on the video. You can show that to the police and they will recognize the culprit and rush to make the arrest.

In the real world of course, it is more likely that the media will print the images as the love the visual and graphic effect that can be obtained by utilizing such images.

This is where the good quality identification camera pays off. If the camera chosen is colour it may assist in identifying the offender due to the colour of his clothing. This is not only relevant on the day but can be relevant in a later police inquiry when clothing is seized from the offender’s place of abode.

Response

Even if a robber wears a mask or covers his features, reviewing the preceding hours of videotape may identify the culprit. In most cases, robbers will ‘case’ the premises prior to the actual robbery.

Are you even checking the images to identify crimes? Develop a reviewing strategy that benefits your business both in detection of shoplifting and customer service. CCTV is a very useful tool to assist with staff customer service training. Involve your staff where appropriate and turn the exercise into a positive experience.

Peace of mind

A correctly designed and installed CCTV security system is undoubtedly one of the most effective tools in the entire spectrum of crime prevention. However, don’t be lulled into a false sense of security by believing that once you’ve installed the equipment your job is done. Crime prevention requires careful thought and reassessment periodically.

Having actual recorded footage will reassure the police that a crime did in fact take place. There have been many reports of crimes in the past to cover offences actually committed by employees at the premises. On many occasions there is some complicity on behalf of the employee with the “so-called” robber. Yes, some people do lie! The recording will also show where the offender went and what he touched during the crime and this assists police in all avenues of their follow-up inquiries.

Staff training is an important part of your security strategy. Staff should be made aware via signage and training of all overt cameras and their functionality. Have they been trained what to do if they observe offences taking place?

Things you can do to make it work

Check the image. Too often as the sun sets beautifully in the west, someone walks in and commits an offence. Usually the picture is so brightly backlit that the culprit looks like a shadow running across the screen.

Check the image again. Too often retailers are fooled into purchasing substandard equipment. Be wary of the cheapest. Invariably the cheapest will produce an ineffective image. More often than not this equipment will suffer more badly with the introduction of a change of light to the picture.

Always seek advise from a licensed CCTV security professional who can explain the function and suitability of this product. If he cannot do this ask to speak to the supplier.

Make sure you protect the digital recorder. What happens after the robber takes the cash and then asks for the video tape as well before he leaves. There is no tape to remove in a digital unit and it is unlikely that he would try and take the whole machine due to all the connections to cameras, monitors, LAN and power supplies that are attached to it.

Carefully consider your decision as to whether or not to monitor events in ‘live’ format. Consider also the use of a second monitor within view of the public or other staff.


Tips to remember

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