Surveillance-friendly environments

February 2001 News

I was in a CCTV control room of an operation recently where I was looking at the way that they were doing surveillance. Within the space of a few minutes, I saw several behaviours that could have been actions associated with the theft of an article although they occurred as part of the normal working process and one could not see the article at all.

The operators were relatively unmoved by this - they see these behaviours all the time and have no way of knowing whether these are innocent actions or deliberate attempts at taking something. If the operator calls security to apprehend the person and nothing has been taken, it leads to awkward public and employee relation issues. If they do nothing, they run the risk of something being taken without their knowledge. Because the company and management culture is sensitive about employee issues, operators have to avoid disruptions and therefore no action is taken in ambiguous cases. If operators see behaviour that clearly shows a theft they are allowed to get a response team in. The only trouble is that theft is seldom that obvious and as a result there is a minimal incident detection rate as operators do not want to create unnecessary scenes. Although the CCTV system may act as a deterrent, this is clearly a surveillance-unfriendly environment.

There are a number of areas that influence how surveillance-friendly your environment is:

* The working environment: How easy is it to view the target activity? This includes line of sight, lighting, light contrasts, obstructions etc and incorporates the concept of having defensible space. Metallurgy plants in older diamond and gold mines, for instance, were designed with no thought for surveillance cameras. Characterised by low light, wet and with multiple levels, piping and structural viewing obstructions, they are difficult to conduct effective surveillance in. Newer operations incorporate more features to allow clearer lines of sight, better viewing angles in high risk areas, and a far more surveillance-friendly facility. A common problem in many production lines with large scale goods (eg motor vehicles) is that when working on the product the person is hidden from view. Similarly, many town CCTV centres have to deal with store signs being placed in direct viewing lines of cameras and obscuring views behind them, which then have to be moved. To what extent is security/surveillance involved in analysing the risk features within the working environment?

* The production process: How easy is it for the operator to understand what is going on in the production process so it can be recognised when something inappropriate is happening? In more complex environments, extensive training is given to familiarise operators with what is going on. In the casino industry, for example, operators are given weeks of training in gaming procedures. If the production process is predictable, it is a great deal easier to identify deviations. Also, how easy is it to camouflage theft within the normal cycle of activities or in the standard behaviour required to do the job? Are minimal hand or arm movements required, are target items being continually handled? Where should they be handled?

* Management culture: Is management committed to establishing a surveillance-friendly environment even if this means some constraints on the normal activities or dress of personnel? Some measures include pocketless coats or overalls, standard uniforms, short sleeves, target personnel having to show clean areas or hands after certain operations, a prohibition or restriction of movements in the working area. These are often seen as restrictive by personnel but can make the task of detection much easier. To what extent are surveillance operators authorised to make a decision that could cause a loss in production if they feel a serious incident has occurred? Is management committed to pursue findings by surveillance personnel or do they hang back?

* The distinctiveness of incident behaviours: How easy is it to recognise the incident? How easy is it to confuse the incident behaviour with normal behaviour? To what degree can the incident behaviour be camouflaged as part of normal behaviour? How often do incidents occur and what impact does this have on the vigilance requirements of the person to be selected? To what extent can the signs of an incident developing be picked up? How will a person remove a stolen object and how obvious will this be? Where can they go to conceal it?

Some environments are a great deal easier to perform surveillance on than others. However, this is both a result of the type of operation, when it was developed, how management have treated the potential risk within the operation, the influence of security within the production process, the nature of incidents themselves, and the ability of personnel to spot what happens. If your surveillance environment falls into the unfriendly category, you need to seriously consider what you can do in the different areas to make it more effective. What is important is that it is not just security's problem. To get an effective surveillance, a friendly environment is a key responsibility of risk management for managers across all areas.

Dr Craig Donald is an industrial psychologist and specialist in human factors in security and CCTV. He is the co-developer of the Surveillance and Monitoring Assessment Exercise (SAMAE) for the selection and placement of CCTV operators and presenter of the CCTV Surveillance Skills training course. He can be contacted on tel: (0110 787 7811, fax: (011) 886 6815 or [email protected]





Share this article:
Share via emailShare via LinkedInPrint this page



Further reading:

Crossing the chasm
Editor's Choice News Security Services & Risk Management Training & Education
Industry reports suggest that in the next ten years, millions of jobs could go unfilled because there simply are not enough people to fill them.

Read more...
The greatest asset for driving transformation
News
Dell Technologies’ research from 40+ countries details how, after two years of accelerated digital transformation, business leaders are more aware than ever of the role employees play in driving successful change

Read more...
Top six priorities for business security this festive season
News
At this time of year it is not uncommon to see criminals enter a business posing as a customer or a delivery supplier, and then proceed to hold staff at gunpoint.

Read more...
DeltaTrak and Ericsson IoT offer real-time cold chain traceability
News Products Logistics (Industry)
Ericsson’s Internet of Things (IoT) business and DeltaTrak announced a collaboration through Deutsche Telekom that will drive cold chain traceability enhancements powered by the Ericsson IoT Accelerator platform.

Read more...
No supply chain delays from Germany
Dallmeier Electronic Southern Africa News CCTV, Surveillance & Remote Monitoring Products
Dallmeier announces that its complete Domera single-sensor camera family is available without delivery problems for installers and channel partners.

Read more...
Lukas van Emmenis joins Olarm in Gauteng
Olarm News
Lukas van Emmenis has joined Olarm as its regional manager based in Gauteng, where he will make full use of his experience in the electronic security, security distribution and discreet manufacturing fields.

Read more...
From the editor's desk: Social beings
Technews Publishing News
      Welcome to Hi-Tech Security Solutions Issue 7. We have slightly fewer topics in focus in this issue because the bulk of the editorial covers one topic, the Residential Estate Security Conference 2022. ...

Read more...
SALTO launches integrated Technology Partner Programme
Salto Systems Africa News Access Control & Identity Management Commercial (Industry)
SALTO Systems has announced it is offering other technology leaders the opportunity to partner with it for an integrated and improved customer offering.

Read more...
Suprema launches BioStation 3
Suprema neaMetrics Editor's Choice Access Control & Identity Management News Products
Suprema has launched BioStation 3, a contactless access control terminal specialised for facial recognition in the post-Covid era.

Read more...
ESDA golf day a success
ESDA(Electronic Security Distributors Association) News
The ESDA Annual Charity Fundraiser, part of the Electronic Security Distributors Association’s Golf Day, was held at the Benoni Lake Golf Course on 21 September 2022.

Read more...