Surveillance and CCTV
CCTV can help to reduce the risk of work-related violence and crime by:
- helping staff and customers feel safer;
- acting as a deterrent to offenders;
- helping you to direct staff or security to where they're needed;
- enabling you to collect evidence to help find and convict offenders.
What do you want CCTV to do?
This is a key question. Which of the points listed above do you want CCTV to help with? The objectives of your CCTV system will have an impact on what kind of system you need in terms of technical equipment, staffing and training.
Remember, CCTV may not have as great an impact on crimes that can be committed quickly, and it can mean that staff and customers stop being so vigilant to crime and violence as they rely on the CCTV system.
Do you need CCTV?
As with all control measures, you have to look at your risks and decide whether CCTV may help to control those risks. Your local crime prevention officer can help you decide whether CCTV is what you need and which system will suit you best.
Key points to remember when using CCTV:
- Use CCTV in combination with other crime and violence prevention measures.
- Make sure staff know how to operate and use the system.
- Display signage advertising the use of CCTV.
- Site cameras in places where you have the highest risk of violence and crime.
- Maintain your CCTV system.
- Keep recordings in a secure place for a minimum of 31 days.
- Use a system that suits your reasons for using CCTV.
CCTV system requirements
Monitoring the system
- How frequently do you need your CCTV to be monitored? If your CCTV system is continuously monitored, how are you going to staff this? If you aren't going to continuously monitor the system, consider making arrangements for staff to periodically and randomly monitor the system.
- Who is going to monitor the system?
- Staff who monitor the CCTV system need to be alert and committed, and you need to know that they will not misuse the system.
- Periodic spot checks can be made to ensure the system is being operated properly.
- There is no solid evidence about the typical attention span of a person monitoring a CCTV system, or how many screens an individual can manage. You need to consider your risks. If your risk is high and it is vital that an operator does not miss anything then you need to ensure they get regular breaks and do not monitor too many cameras. If your risk is low, monitoring arrangements can be more flexible.
- Your operators and other staff should be trained in what you expect them to do. This may include identifying suspicious behaviour, keeping and maintaining records, identifying known troublemakers or alerting colleagues. You need to decide what response you require from your staff if they observe suspicious or violent behaviour, and ensure all staff involved know what to do.
Your control room
- Control room management, operation and procedures are important, particularly in larger companies/premises where several cameras may be in operation.
- Depending on the size of your CCTV operation, control room facilities can include, for example, microwave transmission, tape store and equipment rooms, systems allowing camera control and image selection and a code of practice manual.
- If your control room is situated away from the shop floor/bar area, think about how control room staff communicate with shop floor/security staff. Radio systems can be helpful.
- Signs should be used to ensure both staff and customers are aware of the presence of CCTV. Signs should be in the immediate vicinity of the CCTV, be clearly visible and legible to the public, A4 or A3 in size, stating 'CCTV is in operation' and identify a responsible person and contact number.
- You might want to consider the use of non-threatening signs, eg 'Smile, you're on 24 hour CCTV'.
- You may like to find out how your CCTV system can comply with the Data Protection Act (1998). Your local crime prevention officer could provide you with more information.
- The quality of CCTV may be worse at lower light levels. Some cameras are also unable to cope with or adapt to artificial lighting/neon lighting/low lighting/street lighting or lighting that is too close in the hours of darkness. This can lead to strobing or glare and affects the ability to monitor images and the quality of recorded images.
- You should assess lighting when deciding what system to use. You should consider:
- what it is you are trying to identify (eg number plates, person, movement etc);
- what type of light is there currently and what effect is it likely to have on picture quality;
- whether extra lighting is required.
Location of cameras
- Talk to others about where you should site your cameras, eg police or previous operators. Place cameras at areas with a high risk of violence. Some suggestions for camera location include:
- all entry and exit points from inside and outside, cash offices or storerooms, outdoor areas such as gardens or car parks, counter areas, separate rooms where visibility from counters or bars is hindered, and toilet areas;
- cameras in nightclubs and pubs could cover dance floors, fire exits and areas where security searches are carried out. This monitoring should be possible in all light conditions;
- satellite cameras can be positioned at regular intervals along shop aisles and should be able to rotate 360 degrees to cover a large radius of floor space.
- The number of cameras is not as important as their positioning. Also, having lots of cameras can mean your customers may start to feel worried about becoming a victim of crime, rather than feeling safer.
Camera type and mounting
- There are many different types and makes of camera, and what you choose will depend on the objectives of your CCTV system. Cameras can be static or pan, tilt and zoom (known as PTZ).
- Static cameras can be useful for producing good quality evidence as they point in one direction and have a fixed focal length, but they can be less useful for live monitoring.
- PTZ cameras can mean operators can control their field of vision and the cameras can be more interesting to operate. They are also seen to move so are better for live monitoring and reassuring the public. However, to ensure adequate coverage requires many overlapping PTZ cameras, which can be costly.
- You need to investigate with a supplier how good the resolution and sensitivity is on the cameras they are offering. Colour cameras can sometimes have lower resolution and sensitivity than monochrome ones but they have other advantages such as it being easier and more natural to view the images. Camera technology is improving so the ability of colour cameras to deal with low light levels or mixed/artificial light sources is getting better. You need to decide if 24-hour colour accuracy is needed.
- You also need to think about how you are going to mount the cameras.
- Monitors must be of good quality. Image quality is particularly important, for example monitors must be set up correctly for colour balance and a satisfactory level of contrast and brightness. There should also be no split screen or rolling CCTV monitors on view to the public as this can identify monitored areas.
- Cameras can be plugged into a mains supply or a battery can be mounted with or placed near to the camera. If you use batteries just remember to check them regularly!
- The type of receiver and recording technology you choose will depend on your CCTV system's objectives.
- Digital systems enable faster searching and maintain image quality better than some VCR systems. However, they also have a finite storage capacity. Whatever system you choose, you need to make sure your operators are fully trained and confident in using this technology.
- It is useful if playback software for the playback and export of CCTV images has variable speed control, frame by frame function, forward and reverse functions, can display single and multiple cameras, and permit effective searching, eg by time and date, and allow printing or saving of pictures. Playback should be possible without closing down the CCTV system.
- Ensure you can copy 15 minutes either side of an incident for evidence purposes.
- Recordings can be made in time-lapse mode to enable a single videotape to be used for up to 24 hours. The operator can then switch to real time recording to record a continuous, live event.
- The quality of image you require will be dictated by your CCTV system's objectives. For example, you may want to ensure you have clear images that enable the identification of facial details, vehicles, true colour, provide a clear view of a suspect's body language and actions, and the ability to follow the progress of a target.
- Think about what you want the system to do and what implications that has for the size of the image in the screen, eg do you want it to:
- monitor (can observe number, direction and speed of people - not less than 5% of screen);
- detect (can tell whether or not a person is visible - not less than 10% of screen);
- recognise (can say with high degree of certainty whether a person is the same as one seen before - not less than 50% of screen);
- identify (picture quality and detail should be sufficient to enable the identity of a subject to be established beyond reasonable doubt - not less than 120% of the screen, ie the screen should show the person's head and face close up and not show their whole body)?
- View the recorded pictures, not live pictures, to assess system performance.
- Don't assume that enhancement features such as zoom will provide extra detail.
- Picture quality should not be reduced to fit available storage capacity.
- Recorded videotapes/still pictures need to be kept in a secure place and access to them should be carefully regulated and controlled. It is important that tapes are securely stored because images used as evidence which result in a conviction are required by law to be kept for the duration of the sentence, which could be more than 20 years.
- Recordings/still pictures should have the time and date superimposed on the image. If you are using a digital system, ensure there is a time date stamp. Don't forget to check the date and time are correct.
- If using magnetic tapes for recording images, you should make arrangements for cleaning tapes before they are used again. Tapes should be 'de-gaussed' (magnetically cleaned) of all previous images. Make sure you monitor how many times each tape has been used, and specify a maximum number of recordings (it is unwise to set this figure above 12 as the image degrades each time a tape is used).
- There should be sufficient storage capacity for 31 days' good quality picture. If the system is VCR, ensure you have 31 tapes.
- Visually check tapes by playing them on different machines.
- Video and audio information must not be disclosed to third parties. Neither tapes nor still pictures should be released to the press other than by a police officer. Still pictures should be destroyed unless there are good reasons for retention. Provide guidelines as to who can take hard copies of CCTV images.
- Document your arrangements for tape usage and storage.
You may want to consider getting involved in a partnership scheme, where you share CCTV images of known troublemakers with fellow shops/bars and police. There is a scheme in Scotland, details of which can be found on the Scottish Business Crime Centre website. Your town or city centre CCTV scheme may also provide you with useful information. Contact your local crime prevention officer for details.
Continuous monitoring and evaluation of a CCTV system is essential. This will help you adapt the system if necessary to make it even more effective. When evaluating your CCTV system you should consider:
- its impact on detection and apprehension of offenders;
- whether your recorded evidence is adequate;
- data on arrest patterns before and after CCTV installation;
- the extent of CCTV use as evidence and in identifying offenders;
- whether there are any other hotspots not covered by CCTV cameras;
- in the early stages of CCTV usage, three-monthly monitoring reports are advisable with annual reports thereafter. Information on effectiveness will be more apparent in the second year of operation. Careful records of monitoring should be kept, including dates.
- A named official should be assigned responsibility for the CCTV system.
- Once the system is installed, regular maintenance should be conducted with services at least annually.
CCTV can be a successful measure but it can also be quite costly to install, monitor, maintain and react to. However, there might be funding available to help fund the purchase of CCTV, even if only on a temporary or mobile basis. Speak to your LA or the police about what funding might be available in your local area.