To Disguise Security Cameras … Or Not?

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Visible or invisible security measures for your property: Which should you choose?

There is an ongoing debate about whether security cameras should be hidden or visible. Our answer is … it depends. Perhaps not the definitive answer some might want, but there are actually good arguments to be made for both sides. Let’s discuss the pros and cons of each:

Why you should choose visible cameras

The strongest argument for having security cameras in the open is that they work to deter crime. Most crimes can be labeled “crimes of opportunity.” A thief, attacker, or vandal simply waits until no one is around to see them. It’s why so many incidents occur when the property is empty and why nighttime crime is more prevalent.

Most criminals instinctively want to avoid getting “caught” in the act, and a security camera is basically an audience that never looks away – especially if it is monitored remotely, 24/7. If criminals “see” cameras they will often pick another, easier target.

Why would you choose hidden cameras?

Hiding or disguising security cameras may come down to an important question. Exactly what – or whom – are you trying to catch? We already discussed why a criminal might avoid a business or school if there are cameras everywhere. But what it the person you are trying to catch is already inside? What if it’s an employee committing criminal mischief?

Hidden cameras inside a business or school are a good way to document what’s going on when no one else is around. They could be used to catch employees intent on stealing anything from money to equipment, company information, or sensitive documents. If these workers know cameras are trained on them, they will adjust their behavior – which also may be your goal, if you are intent on deterring malfeasance.

However, if people aren’t aware they are being watched, you are more likely to catch them in the act and determine the exact nature of any ongoing activities. These cameras can be inconspicuous and they are able to record day-to-day comings and goings, including after office hours.

3 things hidden – or visible – cameras can monitor in the workplace:

  1. Employee performance – You can track what employees are really doing while they are on the clock. Are they serving customers appropriately? Are they actually working? This can be especially helpful if someone’s production is lagging.
  1. Customer liability – If a customer (or even an employee) claims to have fallen or been injured, you could be liable and possibly face a lawsuit. It’s difficult to prove in court that your negligence didn’t somehow cause the injury. However, it’s also possible the injury never happened or that the fall was a deliberate attempt at fraud. If you have visible evidence that contradicts the person’s story, you are more likely to avoid a costly payout.
  1. Third party partners – This might apply to other people who come into your business or school beyond employees. Say you have an outside cleaning company or maintenance crew that comes in after hours; hidden cameras are a good way to ensure they are doing their job properly and keeping away from unauthorized areas. It’s not just money or equipment you need to worry about, either, but also the personal data of employees or sensitive materials you wouldn’t want others to have, such as a rival business.

One warning about hidden cameras: There are strict and explicit laws regarding the use of hidden cameras in businesses, and each state is different. In the State of New York, employers may record video without sound in common areas that exclude places such as restrooms, locker rooms, or other changing areas. Every business that installs hidden cameras must be sure to follow the letter of the law.

In addition, there is evidence that cameras – at least those employed by cities – are generally less effective at deterring crime if they are not actively monitored, as criminals figure out this aspect of the deterrent. So, whatever option you choose, it’s important to have the surveillance feeds watched by professionals who know what to look for, and managed, remote-monitoring services are an economical way to ensure that you have the proper coverage. With remote monitoring, organizations have a cost and manpower efficient method of catching crime or malfeasance in process, which is perhaps the most effective deterrent available.

Let an experienced security integrator from POM Technologies help you decide on the best way to protect your property, business, or school. For a free consultation, contact us today at 212.688.2767 or via our online form.