You've been Framed
Closed Circuit television can cut crime by up to 30%. However,
planning and running a system is far from straight forward.
A good investment?
Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) can be a powerful deterrent
against crime, and a useful tool for catching offenders. Whether they are used
inside or outside, CCTV cameras have a good record in helping to protect property and
Internal and external deterrents
Whether your business is situated in a business park or a town
centre, external security can be a problem. However, criminal damage, graffiti and theft
from parked vehicles have all been successfully prosecuted and deterred by CCTV systems.
In fact, in some areas of the country, Local Authorities are reporting a staggering 85%
reduction in vehicle crime - which may in part be due to the spread of external CCTV.
Those who invite the public onto their premises can also use CCTV to
improve their internal security. CCTV can help guard against theft of goods by the
public and staff. It can also help protect your staff. This is particularly important as
the Health and Safety at Work Act requires all employers to provide a safe place of work.
CCTV can help with this requirement by deterring violence in the workplace.
Installing internal CCTV can also deter burglary out of hours. If a
system is properly monitored it will help in any prosecution.
Am I at risk?
If you are trying to assess whether or not you are at risk from
particular types of crime and could benefit from a CCTV system, you may wish to talk to
your local constabulary. Police Crime Prevention/Reduction officers are normally a good
source of advice on the security situation in your area.
Will it pay?
Sadly, in most businesses it is almost impossible to measure the
financial benefits of installing a CCTV system. After all, how do you measure the cost of
a crime which was not committed? Unless there is a history of regular crime against
the property, it is very difficult to quantify the reduction. However, it is possible to
ascertain the level of shrinkage both before and after the installation of CCTV, which can
help give a measure of improvement. It is even possible that the crime rate could
apparently rise after you fit CCTV. (This is a particularly common phenomenon in town
centres.) It is normally because the crime is now actually being detected and registered.
What will it cost?
CCTV systems vary in price from $500 for one camera and one monitor
(without recording) which may be suitable for a corner shop to town centre systems which
can cost around $18,000 per camera. It is even possible to pay as much as $80,000 per
camera for a high-end motorway system.
Fortunately, economies of scale can bring the price per camera down.
For example, a system of four medium resolution colour PTZ (pan, tilt and zoom) cameras on
the same industrial or retail building (which involve no civil works such as trenching to
install) would cost about $3,000 per camera position (or $12,000 in total).
This would include such things as video switching and control,
recording, display and installation. However, it would not include a console. There are
also other costs which you may have to incur. For example, you will have to make the area
in which the video recorder is kept secure - or you could risk theft of the taped evidence
as well as your goods.
Unfortunately, senior management tend to view CCTV as a loss-making
area, rather than one that helps prevent loss. But CCTV can actually be a profit-maker. It
may be possible for a larger business with a secure area to create a monitoring centre.
This could remotely monitor systems for other local CCTV users out of hours. Remote
cameras can be connected to a monitoring centre by normal dial up telephone lines (PSTN),
or digital lines (ISDN).
Monitoring initiatives of this type can be co-ordinated by local
bodies such as the Chamber of Commerce. In addition, independent security consultants can
also offer advice to help identify requirements before investment is made in such an
The number of cameras you will need will depend not only on the size
and layout of the area to be monitored, but also on the type of camera being used. The
area a camera can cover is affected by its rotating and zoom capabilities.
Some cameras allow a number of pre-set positions to be programmed
in, which are followed either in sequence or randomly. This makes monitoring easier and
may make it appear that the camera is actually being manned.
However it is worth noting that, as the direction in which the lens
is pointing in a PTZ (pan, tilt and zoom) camera can be obvious, particular care needs to
be taken with the housing unit. In such a case it is a good idea to opt for a housing unit
which does not show the viewing area, or gives the appearance that it contains several
Some companies opt for a dummy camera rather than a fully
functioning one. However, this cheap option is simply not worth considering. Most
criminals are fully aware of all the different types of dummy camera on the market. The
usual clue is the little red light at the front to show it is on. Almost all real
cameras have any power indicators at the rear of the camera so they do not interfere with
Dummy cameras can also pose additional problems. If you fit dummy
cameras and a sign announcing "you are being monitored by CCTV", you may leave
yourself open to prosecution. For example, if a customer is mugged on your premises, they
may ask for the tapes covering the incident. It is then possible that your sign could
become misleading advertising.
You could even be taken to Court if the customer claimed they only
came into your shop because there was CCTV and thought they would be safe.
Choosing a system
There are many very capable companies who will design, supply and
install CCTV systems. Many companies will have a preferred solution and will keep
this equipment in stock. This can be an advantage as it means they can respond more
quickly to a request. However, it is possible the preferred solution will not be the most
suitable one for your needs. It is important to look at all the alternatives before
making your decision. One way of doing this is to employ an independent security
consultant who specialises in CCTV. A consultant can carry out a full risk assessment.
In some cases, a CCTV system may not be the best solution for your
company at all.
For example, it may be that a good security fence rather than a CCTV
system is your best line of defence. After all a fence does not need to be monitored to be
effective but a CCTV system usually does.
One of the first steps in purchasing a CCTV system is to establish
the Operational Requirement (OR).
This is the system definition agreement which forms the basis for
the detailed design. It should be agreed between the client and the installer and will
help avoid disputes after installation. For example, issues such as whether the system can
be used to read registration numbers may need to be addressed in the OR.
Users are normally asked to define issues such as the purpose for
each camera, the image size and whether cameras are required for detection, recognition or
identification within the Operational Requirement. Whether the material will be suitable
for Court evidence is also an issue which may be need to be included.
ORs also tend to define a standard target which will enable
objective testing of the final system to be carried out. This will be required to confirm
all the specified criteria have been met. There are a number of documents which will
provide help with drawing up a good OR. These include the Police Scientific Development
Branch's CCTV Operational Requirements Manual Publication No 17/94 and BS EN 50132-7.
Alternatively, a security consultant can also help create an OR.
You may find that CCTV equipment manufacturers try to sell you
additional features and functions. Try to stick to the requirements you identified in the
OR to avoid being sold something you do not need. For example, some companies sell frame
integration for low-light use but it is unlikely you will need this feature.
In addition, while presets, which enable PTZ cameras to be
automatically positioned, are useful, few users need more than eight presets per camera.
However, there are some features which you may wish to think about.
If your system will look into public areas you may wish to define
privacy zones into which the camera cannot be moved. In addition, where your CCTV
system is integrated to another system, such as alarms, a Graphical User Interface (GUI)
can also be a very useful feature. If you have such a system and the alarm goes off, it
may be possible to show a layout of the alarmed area, select the correct camera and move
it to a preset location. You may also be able to display specific instructions for the
It is possible to opt for digital CCTV. However, unless you have a
data system such as an Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) or a Local Area Network (LAN) with
a very high data transfer rate (>100Mbps), it will not be economical to install digital
CCTV. If you are being offered digital equipment, it is possible all may not be as
it seems. Some cameras are called digital but are generally not ATM or true digital
cameras (machine vision).
These cameras normally come with Digital Signal Processing (DSP)
which means they have some extra features but can be used with a normal CCTV system.
The current cost of digital recording is much higher than the cost
of using analogue tapes.
In addition, quality of digital recording quality tends not to be
quite as good as an analogue recording on its first day with a brand new tape.
However, digital quality is constant and replay is very good with noiseless freeze frame.
Buying and running
There are four basic ways of purchasing a CCTV system:
1 by capital purchase;
2 by lease purchase;
3 lease; and
Although the on-going cost of renting or leasing is normally
higher than capital or lease purchase, these methods usually include fully comprehensive
maintenance within the contract terms. However, it is possible to be locked into contracts
for up to seven years, which may cause problems. CCTV technology changes very rapidly, so
it is possible a system could be out of date in as little as three to five years. It
is generally accepted that the capital purchase is the best route, with the value written
off over four years but with a life of up to 10 years if properly maintained.
On-going costs include maintenance, monitoring staff and
consumables. The highest cost will probably be monitoring staff.
For example, a dedicated control room merely undertaking CCTV
monitoring would need a staff of between five and eight people for a three-shift system.
In addition, cover for absence sickness and annual leave could also be required.
This could cost up to $60,000 annually. The average operator can
efficiently monitor up to 32 images comprising eight quad (four pictures per screen)
monitors, if they know the area they are monitoring and concentrate on areas which are
more likely to have trouble. Some companies run their CCTV monitoring on 12-hour shifts.
However, this can greatly reduce the efficiency of your monitoring staff.
Other companies also give monitoring staff other secondary tasks.
This can introduce variety and help improve efficiency. It is important to note that both
the system manager and operating staff will need formal training, which can be provided by
specialist training centres such as Tavcom Training.
Comprehensive maintenance cover could cost about 15% to 20% of the
equipment's initial cost each year.
If you do not have a fully comprehensive contract, you will be
subject to call-out charges or the cost of replacement equipment if things go wrong.
Most contracts do not cover vandalism and misuse. Similarly, cost of
consumables such as lamps for Infra-red illuminators and video recorder heads are often
Manufacturers recommend replacement of video heads every 10,000
hours but it is a good idea to replace them once a year (or after 8,760 hours) if your
recorder operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
It is also a good idea to note the average life of the lamps so
preventative maintenance can take place to minimise downtime.
At present, there is no compatibility of recording media between
manufacturers. This is even the case where the same type of recording medium, e.g. Digital
Audio tape (DAT), Digital Versatile Disc (DVD) or Digital VHS tape (D-VHS tape) is used.
This can lead to the Courts, amongst others, having problems with
the exchange of evidence.
An industry group, the Digital Forum, is trying to establish
standards in digital recording file exchange formats to avoid these compatibility