Do security cameras deter business and residential crime?

They won’t deter all crimes, but security cameras can help identify offenders if they are used properly. Photo from Creative Commons courtesy Husky.

Yesterday’s always-informative email from Master Patrol Officer Jim Schriever at Central Patrol answered some of the questions he most often receives about home security cameras. He says he gets inquiries from both residents and businesses about how effective the cameras are in deterring crime.

He says more brazen criminals may commit a crime even when they know a camera is watching, but the cameras probably do deter more passive criminals. In addition, they play a critical role in collecting evidence that can lead to identification and conviction.

He says he is often asked why suspects caught on video surveillance are not prosecuted, and the answer is that “many of these videos or photographs are not of sufficient quality to allow the suspect to be positively identified based on facial recognition, unless we have more information.” However, he says, business and residential property owners should still consider installing cameras, since they can capture key information such as a description of clothing or a method of operation.

When considering the purchase of security cameras, the Kansas City Police Department recommends buying the best equipment possible. Here are their suggestions:

  • Purchase a camera with a smoked bubble type enclosure so the criminal cannot determine what area the camera covers or where it is pointed.
  • Purchase a camera with the highest megapixels available. This will assist in obtaining clear, usable images.
  • If you intend to capture images during darkness, make sure you purchase a system that is not affected by artificial lighting.
  • Purchase a pan, tilt, zoom system. This type of camera is not stationary and can be set up to view and maneuver from a PC or smart phone that is miles away.
  • Purchase ample storage. Images should be kept a minimum of 30 days. If storage is of concern, consider a system with motion activation capabilities.
  • Know how to operate the system. Time is crucial in an investigation, and many times the incidents are captured but the homeowner or employee cannot provide a copy to police because they are unfamiliar with the equipment.
  • Be aware of the camera’s angle. Many cameras are set at such a steep angle that only the tops of the suspects’ heads are observed and therefore capture few facial or physical identifiers.
  • Camera placement is also critical, as many times tree limbs, banners or awnings block the camera’s viewing area. Remember that trees grow. Depending on the season, the sun angle could also have an effect on the image.
  • Remember, what the camera sees during the day is not the same what it sees at night. Houses, buildings, trees and even the moon can cast shadows or dark areas that can affect the camera’s ability to capture a clear image. View your angles and images at all hours of the day and night to make sure your system is correctly set up.
  • Consult a security camera professional or a member of your local police department for proper placement of cameras.

Do you use a security camera? Do you think it makes your home or business more secure?


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