Magazine article Security Management

Split-Second Security

Magazine article Security Management

Split-Second Security

Article excerpt


PERHAPS NO EQUIPMENT DEmands a smaller margin of error than security surveillance equipment. The recovery of stolen property, the prosecution of criminals, the preservation of classified technology--all can depend on capturing within a split second an image on film or videotape, a single image that can save millions of dollars and, in some cases, lives.

What businesses demand such accuracy? Any business with a product, customers, or employees is subject to the illegal attainment of its possessions and therefore should consider security surveillance equipment. The reasons for installing such equipment, however, can differ greatly.

Traditionally, the production of a recognizable photograph used to apprehend and prosecute a criminal has been the primary motive for installing security surveillance systems. In the last 20 years, however, the emphasis has changed from protecting tangible goods to protecting the lives of customers and employees who are often at risk in a robbery. For this reason, a second motive has evolved: deterrence. Although more difficult to measure on a cost basis, a camera's assistance in preventing crimes simply by being visible is just as important as its assistance in prosecuting criminals after the fact.

Regardless of the type of business or specific motive for installing the equipment, the same bottom line remains. Successful surveillance--the ability to deter or prosecute--depends not only on the equipment itself but on its installation, maintenance, and correct use.

The Bank Protection Act of 1968 made the decision to purchase surveillance equipment an easy one for banks by establishing minimum security standards for all federally regulated and insured financial institutions. The decision is not quite as clear-cut, however, for other establishments. Certainly facilities that have experienced a robbery should consider surveillance equipment. Other types of theft, including shoplifting or employee theft, may have a subtle but substantial impact over time; photographic surveillance, if properly used, can prevent such losses.

The location of a retail store, bank, warehouse, or any other facility can also affect the need for surveillance. Its vulnerability due to lack of security personnel or nearby buildings should be considered.

The cost of surveillance equipment varies dramatically and increases depending on the degree of sophistication. One obvious consideration is not to spend more on a surveillance system than it will potentially save. For some smaller retail establishments, an additional cost saving might be in lower insurance rates due to in-store protection.

THREE CHOICES EXIST IN photographic surveillance: motion picture photography, closed-circuit television (CCTV), and still photography. Each has its strengths and weaknesses -- motion picture photography sacrifices clarity for very rapid sequence and CCTV with recording capability suffers from lack of clarity and high start-up cost but offers immediacy and long-term cost savings. Many experts recommend still photography for optimum clarity, effectiveness, and cost justification.

The effectiveness of still photography is evident in the statistics. An average of 70 to 80 percent of bank robbers identified by still photography cameras are apprehended. The most widely known example is Patty Hearst, who in 1974 was kidnapped and held up a bank as a member of the Symbionese Liberation Army. Photos of Hearst with her automatic rifle were taken at four frames per second and used in the prosecution of her companions in crime.

Additional choices abound within the still photography category, each dependent on the application:

Continuous vs. demand. Cameras in a continuous mode are set to take photographs at prescribed intervals, ranging from one frame every second to one frame every 45 seconds. Since the average robbery takes only three minutes, the preset feature reduces the chance of human error in failing to activate the camera in such a short time. …

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