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  • How often to check cameras?

    Reading this story about the girl apparently abducted from a Target parking lot (they believe they have found her body in Missouri at a lake), one of the things I've seen was the parking lot video surveillance footage, which was apparently rather poor (seems to be out of focus) and is now off at a crime lab with hopes they might be able to improve it some. It got me thinking about how often security end users check to see if the cameras are working properly and focused. I am similarly reminded by the story of a recent armed robbery/murder where a store's CCTV system was entirely down -- no footage obtained at all in that incident.

    So, do you have a protocol/policy for how often you do regular maintenance checks on the video surveillance system? Everyone please answer this question, security directors, security officers, LP, installers, integrators, service techs, anyone working with/around CCTV...I would love to know whether this is an issue we need to raise in our industry.

    (I suspect the answer is not as good as we'd like it be - I know a retailer in Atlanta who has all of their fixed parking lot security cameras out of focus, where you probably couldn't even identify what type of car is in the parking space closest to the store. Fortunately, their indoor cameras are quite sharp, but it is as if they only have the parking lot cameras for "show".)

  • #2
    How nice it would be to perform regular maintenance on our cameras but

    1) Sensormatic seldom or never shows up for scheduled service calls.
    2) Corporate doesnt invest in Security alot.

    We currently have 3 cameras down as well as several exterior call boxes, all serviced by Sensormatic. They were supposed to show up on Monday but never showed up. Its funny because I was at an intersection and saw our technician headed North on US 23, not in the direction of my mall.
    "I am not a hero. I am a silent guardian, a watchful protector"

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    • #3
      In my retail LP life, when I was responsible for setting policy and procedure, I had written policies on the checking and repairs of video equipment.

      1. All cameras, VCR/DVRs, monitors had to be check at the start of the day, before store opening. The LP Agent had to sign off that every piece of equipment was working. Anything that was not working, or needed repair, had to be logged with the time, date and name of the Agent. Also logged was the date,time and name of the District LP Manager who they notified. It was then the responsibility of the DM to contact the contract company to have the repairs made - and then followup when the repair was made. This info was also logged in the equipment repair log.

      2. The Regionals would followup with the log during their visits. The DM would notify the Regional if the equipment was not repaired in a timely manner. If there was an issue the Regionals were empowered to contact the vendor directly and light a fire under them. If the issue continued or they received any static from the vendor they would then contact me.

      I think I wrote this before - I had response and performance expectations written into contracts with agreed upon fines to be paid by the vendor when they failed to meet their agreements.

      As far as the Target situation - I'm aware that their stores have a policy in place for the checking of video equipment. I'll be following this one very closely. I can see a litigation issue arising out of this.
      Retail Security Consultant / Expert Witness
      Co-Author - Effective Security Management 6th Edition

      Contributor to Retail Crime, Security and Loss Prevention: An Encyclopedic Reference

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      • #4
        When I was posted to a "sensitive" installation... Ok, a rubber factory. They made a specific type of polyurethane rubber that is extensively used by DoD... They invested in a 5 million dollar CCTV system.

        Here's the problems with their CCTV system.

        1. It was installed by the facility maintenance department with little input from the contract security force. (The end user!) The only person who cared about the CCTVs was me, and that was because I was expected to watch them, and I was really, really bored that night. You sat in a little shack with an AC and read, that was the job.

        2. The CCTV monitor was black and white, and was not high resolution.

        3. The multiplexer fed 16 cameras into a 14" display, in groups of 4.

        4. The cameras were out of focus and pointing at things that they wanted to watch, not actual areas of security importance.

        5. The cameras malfunctioned, and were not replaced.

        Using the CCTV system, I could tell if:

        Someone had entered the property through two entrances, but only if they were 50 feet into the property (It was pointing inwards from the gate, not pointed at the gates from a vantage point)

        Someone had entered a secure door, but only after they had entered it.

        A dangerous piece of machinery (a rubber reactor) had blown up (It did, once, great footage!)

        And... That was it.

        We almost lost an employee to a reactor malfunction. I had great footage of the high pressure MEK line rupturing and exploding 600 degree Methyl Ethyl Ketone all of the facility, but not where the employee's workstation was.

        I was lucky in that I found everyone on break, as there were only 6 employees in the plant at that hour. Thousands of gallons of superheated ... stuff... was showered all over where the man was supposed to be sitting. We estimated that he would of died quickly, thankfully.

        Eventually, the camera system was struck by lightning and never replaced.

        I think this, the rush to install it yourself without consulting the end users, with the apathy of keeping the system operational, is a big problem in the industry. Especially if the end user is not a decision maker.
        Some Kind of Commando Leader

        "Every time I see another crazy Florida post, I'm glad I don't work there." ~ Minneapolis Security on Florida Security Law

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        • #5
          Many cctv systems are installed in the wrong place or incorrectly. Many company and government facilities have standards for cctv installation and maintenance. Unfortunately, many do not.

          As a systems integrator and installer of many systems for both government and corporate clients, I use the following rules.

          1. Cameras should ALWAYS be placed at entrances facing towards the direction a person entering the secure area. Video does not do much good from the back.

          2. High potential or safety areas should be well covered.

          3. Cameras should be placed so as too show the best view of the needed coverage with as narrow a view as possible. I've seen too many people put a camera in a parking lot with a wide angle lens to give an "overall" view. That is useless in court for identity if all you can tell the judge is "It was a truck, maybe blue, maybe a ford courrier or dodge dually, we can't make out the plate, let alone what state it is from."

          4. All cameras shall be cleaned and focused whenever needed as soon as possible.

          5. When a camera or system part fails. We always gaurantee repair or replacement within 24 hours of notification, no matter if a weekend or holiday. If we, by some unforseen circumstance, cannot meet the time requirements, the service is free. (Unless it is a specialty part then we can ussually obtain a replacement within 3 business days)

          Too many cctv systems are considered important AFTER a situation occurs. I have been to places that call 6-12 months after the system fails. (Not systems we installed) The day after an incident has occured.

          An example of poor usage of cctv is this: At a facility (won't state which one) they hired a person to only watch the cctv equipment. They had trucks, equipment, quads, etc. parked in the secure parking area. The next day I got a call to train them (again) on searching the video database for incidents. The cameras the night before were doing tours like programmed except 2. One camera was focused on a vehicle in the park next door with a couple having some "fun" inside. The second camera was focused on the person they hired to watch the cctv systems new truck. The funny part was not 10 feet from his truck someone cut the chainlink fence and pulled a trailer holding 4 quads out. Hot wired the quads (could see wire pieces on the ground) and drove off. Needless to say the person was fired. We also installed beam and fence sensors around the perimeters like we originally recommended.

          I know alot of companies only view the systems after an incident. If they have not had any incidents they dont give the system a thought. As with any electronic item, time degrades things. Cameras need to be checked at regular intervals.

          I agree completely with Security Consultants procedures and personally think more companies should be professional and stand by thier products and/or services.

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          • #6
            I think we have seven or so for a six story building. They feed into (best as I can tell) a maintenance buildling I don't have access to. Would be handy to have as at least I could see the lobby entrances but oh well.

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            • #7
              Daily checks of the CCTV cameras and recording system should be part of the policies and procedures of every site.

              Fire,

              You need a new vendor or at a minimum someone needs to hold a "come to Jesus" meeting with Sensormatic. I have never written an RFP for a service contract that allows for longer than a 4 hour response time under any circumstances.
              "People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf." G. Orwell

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              • #8
                Curtis, John, Rooney have hit it directly on the head you need to check them at the start of every shift and document your findings on your official log. Brief the oncoming shift supervisor on all the things you normall would and what the status of CCTV system is.
                Now the hard part, there has to be a reporting regimen without the convoluted twists and turns I've seen in some post orders. Plus, there must be specific penalties established should the responsible parties fail to repair.
                Key to this operation is leadership with spine not afflicted by indecision.
                Again, good job everyone, home and tea!
                Enjoy the day,
                Bill

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                • #9
                  For many many moons now ours are checked each a.m., midday, and at close...we have 3 by 16cam Intellex that keep vigil day and nite with 6 motion capture zones.
                  Any service difficulties are called in promptly and they're contractually obligated to a 4hr response/resolution window.

                  In the event that timespan is compromised, we have spares that can be put to use.

                  We don't necessarily have a high-risk 'hood....and we like to keep it that way.
                  You can educate dumb, but you can't fix stupid.

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                  • #10
                    Dave,

                    It sounds like your program is set up correctly- congratulations.

                    The Intellex is a great choice for a DVR-are you using the Ultras yet?

                    John
                    "People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf." G. Orwell

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                    • #11
                      what to do about checking/maintaining 100's of CCTV cameras?

                      All of your comments regarding CCTV maintenance are interesting but what about systems where there are upwards of 1000 cameras with more to come? Yes my organization has a Communications Section but the best they can do is check and maintain the cameras every 3 months, and to add to the complexity of the problem - the CCTV sites are spread throughout a major city.

                      You can imagine the state of strictly "recorded not monitored" camera images when we pull them for a criminal occurrence - real lunch bag let down. Any ideas on how to create a more effective way of managing a massive surveillance program where costs are publicly funded?

                      BTW - I'm the person who requests the installation of the camera system and I'm not techy so any advice is appreciated.

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                      • #12
                        This should be interesting.

                        On another tangent, why do agencies and companies have un-monitored cameras? There's no response if something happens.
                        Some Kind of Commando Leader

                        "Every time I see another crazy Florida post, I'm glad I don't work there." ~ Minneapolis Security on Florida Security Law

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by N. A. Corbier View Post
                          This should be interesting.

                          On another tangent, why do agencies and companies have un-monitored cameras? There's no response if something happens.
                          I have them in my 3 hotels & they are more of a pain than a help. Time that should be spent doing active patrols are wasted looking for something that already happened. Then even if you have a clear photo of the suspect, what then. If you are checking the video a day later he could be in another country by then!! The only use I've had for un-monitored cameras is when a suspect has been caught, as evidence.
                          Last edited by HotelSecurity; 06-12-2007, 03:52 PM.
                          I enforce rules and regulations, not laws.
                          Security Officers. The 1st First Responders.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by N. A. Corbier View Post
                            This should be interesting.

                            On another tangent, why do agencies and companies have un-monitored cameras? There's no response if something happens.
                            I have them in my 3 hotels & they are more of a pain than a help. Time that should be spent doing active patrols are wasted looking for something that already happened. Then even if you have a clear photo of the suspect, what then. If you are checking the video a day later he could be in another country by then!! The only use I've had for un-monitored cameras is when a suspect has been caught, as evidence. Or like yesterday when a guest had his bag that he left unspervised, stolen. He claims he asked an employee to keep her eyes on his luggage while he went to get his car. The video showed that the briefcase was stolen BEFORE he even spoke to the employee.
                            I enforce rules and regulations, not laws.
                            Security Officers. The 1st First Responders.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Hotel,

                              I understand your pain and agree to a certain extent in your case but I think you may need more tools. Are you using DVRs with decent search capabilities (motion, directional line crossing, light change)? If not, the ROI on these boxes would be pretty short given the investigation time you are spending!

                              John
                              "People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf." G. Orwell

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