Closed-circuit television (CCTV) surveillance, or video surveillance, systems have long been a staple of security for businesses, hospitals, campuses, and government facilities alike. In recent years, video surveillance systems have begun to spread into the private sector as well, with many homeowners adding porch cameras to monitor their front yards for suspicious activity.
But, are surveillance cameras really able to improve your security and deter criminals? If so, how can you make sure that you get the best return on investment for investing in such a security system?
What is the Impact of Video Surveillance on Security?
It can be difficult to establish a reliable estimate of how much impact video surveillance systems have on crime. After all, how can you measure events that don’t happen because of a new security system—especially when there may be other factors involved?
However, surveys of college and medical campuses carried out by Campus Safety do show that surveillance systems have a marked impact on security. According to the Campus Safety article:
“96 percent of survey respondents that have video surveillance systems installed on their campuses say these systems frequently (58 percent) or sometimes (38 percent) provide evidence for investigations. Four in five say their security cameras frequently (24 percent) or sometimes (56 percent) prevent crime, and 86 percent say these systems frequently (50 percent) or sometimes (36 percent) help their departments monitor their campus during other situations when safety or security issues could arise. Nearly three out of four respondents (74 percent) say their video surveillance systems frequently or sometimes act as force multipliers.”
These survey statistics demonstrate how integral a security camera system can be for protecting a campus—and, by extension, an office, retail space, hospital, industrial warehouse or any other space. The mere presence of a security camera can deter criminals by reminding them that they are being observed and that a recording of their actions may be used as evidence against them.
However, it’s important to have an actual video surveillance system, and not a set of fake video cameras designed only to intimidate potential thieves—that’s just “security theater,” or a pointless security measure that doesn’t impact actual security and safety.
Why Are Fake Security Cameras a Bad Idea?
Kyle Law Firm highlights some very important reasons not to use so-called “dummy cameras” in a facility. According to their article, a fake camera may provide a false sense of security, and “if a customer or staff member is attacked or [is] the victim of a crime on your property they may be able to argue that by having a ‘secured’ dummy camera they felt safer and let their guard down under the impression that they would be able to get help.” This, in turn, can open you up to liability if the victim cannot gain evidence from the fake security cameras.
Additionally, fake security cameras are still prohibited in certain areas of a building—even though they cannot record anything. A case study that the Kyle Law Firm post involved a Florida middle school principal who installed fake cameras in the student bathrooms to deter would-be graffiti artists. As the article stated, “when parents learned of the cameras they were outraged, even if the cameras were fake. The American Civil Liberties Union considered filing a suit against the school unless the cameras were removed.”
Above and beyond the liabilities fake cameras can create, the fact that they’re fake can be uncovered or leaked to the public, at which point the fake surveillance system loses what little effectiveness it had as a deterrent.
How to Get the Most Out of a Video Surveillance System
There are many aspects to a successful security camera installation. Some factors for getting the optimal results from the surveillance system include choosing the right kinds of security cameras for the job, selecting a storage solution for the video recordings (including backups), and finding a reliable company to complete the security camera installation.
Here are some quick tips for getting the most out your CCTV security system:
- Traditional Analog CCTV Cameras vs. Digital IP Systems. Traditional analog CCTV cameras are less expensive but are limited in resolution, features, and the overall system functionality when compared to IP (Internet Protocol) systems. IP surveillance systems offer many significant advantages over traditional analog systems in terms of image quality, features, and data storage options.
- Choosing a Camera Resolution. There are many different types of security cameras to choose from, with varying degrees of image fidelity. Using security cameras with higher megapixel counts means having a sharper image resolution—which may be useful for identifying perpetrators or vehicles while also decreasing the total number of cameras required to cover a large area. However, high-resolution footage often requires a higher-capacity storage solution, which may increase the total cost of ownership. Traditional CCTV cameras are typically limited to the standard resolution (720 x 480) but newer IP cameras and NVRs (Network Video Recorders) can record in 1080p (1920 x 1080).
- Deciding on a Suitable Frame Rate. The frame rate simply refers to how smooth the video recording will be. In general, the higher the frame rate, the smoother the video will be. As a point of reference, real-time video is typically measured at 30 frames per second (fps). Recording video at 30fps tends to quickly eat up a lot of storage space, so similar to choosing a resolution, the benefits of a higher frame rate have to be weighed against the increase in costs. The suitable frame rate may vary depending on the intended purpose of the camera. For example, a frame rate of 15fps may suffice for a camera placed at an entry or exit door to record general activity, but 30fps may be more suitable for a camera placed above a cash register or casino table to capture more detailed movement.
- Choosing the Right Cameras for the Environment. When choosing cameras, consider where the camera will be installed. Is the area indoors or outdoors? How much lighting is available? What are the normal operating temperatures involved? Is audio required for any camera locations? Do any cameras need to be vandal-resistant? These are just a few of the many considerations that should be made when choosing security cameras for different areas of a facility.
- Optimizing Camera Placement. When choosing where to install your surveillance cameras, it’s important to optimize placement and avoid having too much coverage overlap. This involves identifying the most important areas and items to monitor and protect in your facility. It also involves establishing what you ultimately want to accomplish (improving safety, catching criminals, monitoring compliance, reducing theft, etc.). This will help you identify the best camera locations to maximize coverage while minimizing the number of cameras required, which translates into cost savings.
- Recording and Storage of Video. The storage and accessibility of video recordings is a critical design aspect for any surveillance system as they have a significant impact on the total cost of ownership. The amount of storage required is dependent upon several factors such as the number of cameras, the resolution and frame rate for each camera, and particularly how long recordings need to be stored. There are many tools available online to help calculate the amount of storage required for any system, provided you know and understand the aforementioned parameters.
- Backing Up Image Recordings. Accidents do happen so it is often advisable to have a remote backup of the stored video footage in case of a mishap with the primary video storage device. In fact, this is one area where IP cameras have an enormous advantage over analog CCTV systems. Because they are connected to a network, IP cameras can easily send image data to a remote, cloud-based storage solution in addition to your on-site storage. This creates a real-time backup of video in case of accidental damage (or sabotage) to your video storage drive.
- Finding a Reliable Company for Security Camera Installation. It’s important to find a trustworthy and reliable company to handle the installation of your surveillance cameras—one that can help you optimize camera placement, recommend the best cameras irrespective of any one camera manufacturer and can provide a thorough, accurate estimate of the costs so there are no surprises partway through the installation. This helps to control costs while achieving the best possible results. A reliable and responsible company will not cut corners during installation, which can help avoid costly maintenance issues down the road.
These are just a few tips for getting the most out of your security camera installation. If you have any more questions about surveillance systems for schools, hospitals, or offices, reach out to the Blue Wave Communications team. We’ll be happy to answer your questions and discuss your specific video surveillance needs.