Cameras are Only Truly Effective if Enough are Installed and They’re Actively Monitored

A study of law enforcement surveillance yielded mixed results – with a clear conclusion

When the Urban Institute, which studies Washington, DC, public policy decisions, decided to examine the effectiveness of law enforcement surveillance cameras as a crime deterrent, they might have been able to write the findings long before the first piece of data was reviewed.

The idea that surveillance and security cameras are most effective when enough are installed and when they’re actively monitored is pure common sense – and yet, many businesses either refuse to or (think they) lack the means to heed the warning.

A review of the video surveillance study

 The Urban Institutes study focused on three American metropolitan areas: Baltimore, Chicago, and Washington, DC. Each city has an extensive video surveillance system to help law enforcement reduce crime. Results in each city, however, varied:

  • Baltimore: Hundreds of cameras have been installed in downtown Baltimore and the city’s high-crime neighborhoods. The cameras are remotely and actively monitored by retired police officers. The results are 30 fewer crimes per month and $12 million in avoided victimization and criminal justice costs. In other words, that’s $1.50 in savings for every dollar spent.
  • Chicago: High-risk neighborhoods were selected as home to more than 8,000 video surveillance cameras, all of which are highly visible with flashing blue lights, connected to a wireless network, and monitored by police officers from desktop computers. There were mixed results. Only neighborhoods with a higher density of cameras and those with cameras that were actively monitored saw a reduction in crime.
  • Washington, DC: Unlike the other cities in the study, DC did not see a reduction in crime despite the installation of cameras in high-crime areas. The difference is that, although the cameras were marked, they did not have flashing blue lights as in Baltimore and Chicago. In addition, Washington, DC, enacted a policy to protect the privacy of citizens that restricted how police monitored the cameras.

Video surveillance and the implication for business

The overall findings of the study indicate what many people would assume: A video surveillance system is most effective when enough cameras are installed and when the video feed is actively monitored. While these results certainly have strong implications for large metropolitan areas and smaller jurisdictions, they can also be applied to businesses of all sizes.

In short, just because a camera is present it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a deterrent to crime. Many businesses have holes the security system’s coverage – areas where a camera isn’t present or simply is unable to operate.

Similarly, if no one is actively monitoring those cameras, the business owner isn’t exactly protecting the company’s assets. Instead, the owner is recording what happens to the assets. That’s a big, expensive difference.

Solutions for your video security system

 Business owners, especially those that do not have the budget to hire more on-site security staff, should consider working with a security firm that provides managed services. In addition to examining a facility for any blank spots in surveillance coverage and recommending equipment to fill them, a security integrator can also provide remote monitoring services. The impact:

  • Remote monitoring is cost effective if a crime happens. For example, if a burglary takes place at 3:00 am on a Saturday morning, and no one is in the office until Monday morning, that’s a tremendous amount of time between the event and the discovery – not to mention the amount of video required to sift through to uncover the details. With 24/7 monitoring, law enforcement can be notified immediately.
  • Remote monitoring has the ability to deter a crime – before it takes place or one in progress. With each passing year, video camera capabilities are becoming more enhanced. Motion detection, instant alerts, and a team of remote monitoring personnel can spot crime immediately.

In addition, intelligent video analytics have the capability of spotting a threat before a crime even happens. These services can be coupled with remote speakers that warn off intruders or other criminals to interrupt what’s taking place. In any case, management, relevant on-site security personnel, and law enforcement can be notified immediately.

The first security step for a business owner

POM Technologies believes in delivering peace of mind to our clients. We’re able to review your business’ current security system and help you make the best decisions to make sure your hard work is protected and safe. We’ll quickly spot any gaps in your surveillance strategy and make technology recommendations to fill them. And remote monitoring services are manpower solution for many of our clients, giving them the capability to effectively monitor a sufficient number of surveillance feeds at an affordable price.

If you would like our security professionals to assist you in developing a fully integrated security strategy that incorporates the latest technology, call POM Technologies at 212.688.2767 or get in touch through our convenient online form.