Tactical returns on CCTV

February 2014 CCTV, Surveillance & Remote Monitoring

The implementation of CCTV is often focused very operationally on placing cameras in order to secure potential areas of risk where incidents may happen, or to identify the nature of involvement in an area afterwards.

Increasingly, companies are asking where are the returns on the expenditure on CCTV in terms of incidents detected and reduction of loss. In many instances there may be few if any actual crimes detected, and the monthly reports fail to impress. Yet a variety of sectors such as casinos, platinum refineries and retail operations have clearly demonstrated that it is possible to use CCTV to significantly improve the bottom line, even in company wide performance.

A major part of this success is that CCTV is well integrated with other security technologies, management processes, and information to greatly enhance the value of the information that is produced by cameras, and to help understand what is happening in other cases. One of the biggest dangers of a CCTV system is to think of it as a standalone system. In a tactical combination with these other areas of operation, it can produce system wide results that can have a major effect on the company bottom line.

The integration with other security technologies may be as simple as linking it to alarms or automated lighting systems. However, it has really shown its merits in the retail sector with till monitoring and visual auditing of swiped items being confirmed through on screen displays of transactions. Linking face identification to risk particular areas covered by access control can also raise alerts when a higher risk suspect is in a vulnerable area. Identification of nervous behaviour of somebody walking towards a search cubical can allow directives to searchers to check such candidates, even if they are not chosen in a random search process.

At a Polish airport I saw a system where detection of unusual results in a radar imaging on the airfield perimeter would immediately trigger CCTV images directed to the location of that image including thermal imaging to assist in determining its organic nature. In all of these cases, CCTV is used in conjunction with other systems or monitoring processes to create a more time effective and targeted viewing of conditions.

Visual auditing of management processes and responding to 'loss triggers' is another tactical concept. Just checking whether people are following laid down management procedures, for example, can highlight potential issues if there are frequent failures to do so. For example, in a diamond sorting area the diamonds may be weighed out and then back in at the end of the shift to verify the weights balance. An imbalance should trigger a review of CCTV footage to identify potential reasons for the imbalance.

Similarly, losses on a casino table can trigger more focused surveillance to identify where it is by chance or deliberate efforts to cheat the systems. Responding to unexpected delays in access control, or movement of goods occurring too fast or slowly can create questions. The non-arrival of a transit vehicle within certain time parameters could activate an on-board camera to give an indication of what is happening.

CCTV produces huge amounts of potential information that is typically stored without being evaluated in any way. However, if operators are on the alert for specified behaviours associated with risk factors, these can be associated with certain individuals who display behaviour or activities that appear to be problematic. In my training I emphasise that performance is not just about catching people, but identifying people who are displaying inconsistent or suspicious behaviour and who need to be monitored more closely. This not only produces a wealth of information that can lead to suspects being tracked and caught by other means, it provides a very real indicator that your operators are working and delivering results on an ongoing basis.

Of course, that is why there needs to be an investigations section for this information to be used tactically. This includes something like an electronic occurrence book. I’ve been in locations where piles of occurrence books are on a shelf that have probably never been looked at, and would never be unless there was an enquiry about something. Without the capacity to collate, interpret and investigate further, little is likely to happen. This is also a reciprocal process. By using intelligence gained by CCTV and other sources, operators can be directed to likely targets or target areas and increase the chances of detection significantly. One cannot watch all the cameras all the time. By generating and using intelligence information, the most important targets can be focused on.

CCTV is also about protection and prevention of theft. If one can look at information generated by CCTV and say how it contributed to the prevention of an event through effective deployment of resources, or how a potential accident was prevented, or even a greater security awareness by security personnel, staff, or criminals has produced a culture of less crime opportunities, CCTV can be seen to be effective. CCTV is a part of a security solution and needs to be integrated effectively with the rest if it is to produce best possible performance.

Dr Craig Donald is a human factors specialist in security and CCTV. He is a director of Leaderware which provides instruments for the selection of CCTV operators, X-ray screeners and other security personnel in major operations around the world. He also runs CCTV Surveillance Skills and Body Language, and Advanced Surveillance Body Language courses for CCTV operators, supervisors and managers internationally, and consults on CCTV management. He can be contacted on +27 (0)11 787 7811 or craig.donald@leaderware.com


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