The demand for effective surveillance remains a priority for security and line management involved with the day to day protection of assets.
On a number of occasions, associates within the security industry have expressed their excitement with an imminent project to establish or enhance security control rooms and/or surveillance capabilities.
The excitement is short lived when certain tough questions are posed in the project process. These range from what the return on investment will be, to questioning the capability and purpose of the technical systems. Rightfully so, the investors have a high expectancy of delivery and in many instances perceive that the surveillance systems are the ultimate and only asset protection solution.
I would caution that before investing in any form of surveillance or technology, the project should commence with a summary of critical controls. These are controls that are crucial to preventing the event or mitigating the consequences of the event. The absence or failure of a critical control would significantly increase the risk despite the existence of the other controls. In addition, a control that prevents more than one unwanted event or mitigates more than one consequence is normally classified as critical.
These requirements should form part of the project scope, the implementation and delivery expectations. Tactical considerations should be given to:
1. Vulnerability assessments are key
A quality security vulnerability assessment would inform the executive team of the criticality of the location of cameras and relevance to risk. CCTV alone is not the sole source for protection of assets, but aides those responsible for this function if it follows the critical control management process.
When done well, the security vulnerability assessment highlights the critical controls required to mitigate risk.
2. Threats to assets
Equal to the vulnerability assessment is a detailed threat analysis which examines crime and incident patterns. This provides the project manager with accurate information to ensure the location of the system is balanced relative to cost.
3. Observation and the operator
My experience has taught me that operators are often frustrated when the camera footage is not fit for purpose and in fact, unreliable. The surveillance is often installed to monitor, but cannot detect, recognise or identify perpetrators.
4. Risk versus frame rate
In instances where the perpetrator or type of crime in progress is taking place quickly, time lapse rates in the system may compromise evidence. This aspect must be well defined based on the number of cameras and outcomes of the vulnerability assessment.
5. Dedicated personnel or not
Often the surveillance environment is ready for use only to discover that inadequate attention has been paid to the type of methodology and personnel required. Casual surveillance is inadequate in high asset protection environments. The assessment of personnel to ensure the right person for the right job is essential for success.
6. Surveillance regime
Monitoring during critical operational times is key. In addition, many unwanted events are missed if review surveillance is not part of the requirement. Again, a quality vulnerability assessment will inform operational procedures.
7. Operations versus surveillance
Many approaches in the overall protection of assets with closed circuit television embed the camera surveillance in security operations centres. Albeit that this may not be wrong, it is truly not effective surveillance due to all the dilution factors such as alarms, gate control, access/egress and many others.
8. CCTV systems and alerts
Modern video analytics enable dedicated surveillance personnel to see visual alarms, auto-generated text, emergency relays, alarm audit trails and many more.
9. Camera display
Single screens are often split and ‘crowded’ into multiple views. This again dilutes true surveillance and the ability to detect and recognise unwanted events.
10. Retention time
Often a request is made by an investigation team to recover CCTV footage only to find that this is impossible to do. This is usually a retention time issue and unclear technical protocol and procedures for the scale of such retention relevant to the size of the CCTV capability.
11. General considerations
General matters should be built into the project design. These may include but are not limited to export and archive procedures, constraints, legal matters (e.g. PoPI Act, etc.) and future maintenance and the cost thereof.
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