Magazine article Risk Management

New Tricks for Video Surveillance

Magazine article Risk Management

New Tricks for Video Surveillance

Article excerpt

ALTHOUGH THE existence of video cameras in the workplace may summon up -images of George Orwell's novel 1984, many companies rely on video surveillance in their security operations. Employers routinely use surveillance cameras as a security measure in underground garages, lobbies, hallways and parking lots to protect their businesses from intruders. Video surveillance is also used in certain office or plant "sting" operations, when employers suspect that some of their workers are using drugs, embezzling funds or stealing merchandise. Other employers utilize video to investigate suspicious workers' compensation claims.

An employer's use of video surveillance is by no means evidence of paranoia; in fact, considering the high number of thefts - whether from external or internal sources - an effective video surveillance program is a necessity for many employers. Internal theft has evolved as a particularly acute problem. According to Pat Rivers, a spokesperson for the American Society for Industrial Security (ASIS), internal thefts account for 80 percent of crimes committed against businesses and cause 30 percent of all business failures. According to findings ASIS presented to Congress, "Annual losses to the private sector from business crimes exceed $50 billion. The cost of these crimes is ultimately borne by the public in the form of higher prices for goods and services as well as higher taxes." In light of these dire statistics, it is no wonder that many employers are devising security strategies to combat employee theft and fraud.

Video surveillance can be a very effective security and investigative tool. However, risk managers and their employers who are thinking of conducting surveillance of their workers need to ensure that they do so correctly and for the right reasons. A haphazardly conceived video surveillance program can not only fail, but can also expose an employer to litigation.

General and Point-Specific "THERE ARE TWO basic uses for video in the workplace," says Bob Adkisson, a certified protection professional (CPP) and security management and operations specialist for Creative Services Inc., a security consulting and investigative firm in Mansfield, Massachusetts. "The first use is for general protection and surveillance, such as having cameras watch employees who handle money, or as a security measure in retail stores. The second is for 'point-specific' uses; this is for cases such as watching to see if certain employees are using drugs, or to observe the behavior of workers who are under suspicion of theft." For general surveillance, cameras would typically be installed at strategic locations throughout the building and could either be in plain view or hidden; for point-specific purposes, cameras would be concealed. Concealed cameras would be installed to view the area where the alleged wrongdoing would most probably occur. In addition to being installed on the company premises, cameras might be placed in other areas or in non-traditional locations, such as in a carried briefcase or on a moving surveillance vehicle.

Mr. Adkisson suggests that if a company is contemplating using video for either general surveillance or a point-specific reason, the first step is to get professional recommendations on how to set up a surveillance program. "You should hire an outside security consultant to write out a set of specifications. This will determine what type of cameras you'll need. It's important, however, that the consultant not be a representative of a firm that sells camera equipment; a sales rep may try to sell you expensive equipment that doesn't fit your needs. These recommendations should include camera selection criteria such as type, number, performance parameters and quality of equipment needed by the company." Mr. Adkisson also mentions that a good consultant will have up-to-date knowledge of privacy issues in the state where the surveillance will take place.

Harry Butcher, vice president of business development for Pinkerton Security and Investigation, recommends that video surveillance should only be used in point-specific circumstances when "there is a specific instance of wrongdoing, such as drug use or theft. …

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