Video surveillance is not a new thing. One of the first recorded applications of video surveillance was in 1942 when it was used to view the launch of V2 Rockets in Germany.  This technology attained commercial use in the United States from 1947 -1957 along with the development of televisions.  The technology moved forward considerably in 1996 with the introduction of Ethernet IP networks and again in 2011 as low-cost cameras were introduced by the Chinese. Recent advances in wireless CCTV technology have made the installation of CCTV ubiquitous.

Why and How Does This Technology Affect Us?

In the last five years, property managers have observed a significant increase in crime. With the surge in package delivery there has been an increase in commensurate package crime.  At industrial properties we manage, metals are being stolen and vandalized, larceny and vagrancy are increasing as homelessness has exploded.

Regional police departments have been unable to recruit enough officers to protect communities and properties do not have the budgets to pay for full time security staffing.  Unfortunately, roving security cannot give you the constant “eyes on” properties that CCTV can deliver.

At high crime properties, property owners have little choice but to do what home owners are already doing with the installation of the “Ring” video doorbells that can wirelessly interact with multiple computers, send messaging and videos to your cell phone in “real time” so that  police response can be requested.

CCTV has been a huge help to keeping properties secure, but it does not replace crime prevention activities, property hardening and police response. A CCTV system serves mainly as a security force multiplier, providing surveillance for a larger area. These systems are often used to support comprehensive security protocols by incorporating video coverage and security alarms for barriers, intrusion detection, and access control.

An additional benefit of CCTV is that owners of investment property have the ability to watch employees and vendors to make sure they do their jobs as well. Yes, Big Brother is watching.

Where Not to Install – Violations of Privacy

As much as property owners want to ensure security, tenants have the right to expect some level of privacy as well. There are laws that prohibit the installation of CCTV cameras in retail changing rooms, bathrooms, bedrooms, laundry areas, toilets, etc., which can seriously violate tenants right to privacy, these locations should be avoided.

Key Items to Consider When Choosing a CCTV System and Hiring a CCTV Vendor

A thorough risk and needs assessment should be conducted to identify locations or assets that will benefit from CCTV surveillance as part of an overall security approach. A needs assessment gathers and analyzes four sets of requirements: functional, operational, infrastructure, and video retention.

Functional Requirements – Define camera coverage needs such as surveillance of perimeters, parking lots, and storage areas; surveillance of approaches to, and spaces within, buildings or other structures; and surveillance of waterfronts.

Operational Requirements – Define the capabilities of the CCTV system components that will enable it to provide the expected information under all operating conditions. Conditions to consider in the operational environments include day and night operations, lighting, weather conditions, and temperature changes. It is important that operational requirements are detailed and testable. For example, waterfront surveillance may demand that the CCTV system provide a recognizable image, during day or night, of any type of surface watercraft operating at speeds between 0 and 60 knots in wave heights of up to six feet while within 500 yards of a pier; another example could be around a warehouse that has a blind alley with garbage enclosures and neighboring fences that may demand a recognizable image from unusual angles.

Infrastructure Requirements – Define needs for installing or accessing fiber or hard-wire cables, wireless networks, and power sources, to name a few, necessary to successfully implement an integrated CCTV system; and

Video Retention Requirements – Define video retention and storage needs.

Other considerations include:

Lighting

The availability of sufficient power

Scalability of the system you are buying and if it is designed to increase video storage, more monitors or cameras if the security needs increase.

System Lifecycle

Ease of maintenance

Reliability of the system hardware and software

Reputation of vendor and manufacturers

Ease of replacing parts that fail or are damaged

Connectivity to the internet

Batteries necessary in case the power fails

Day and night cameras (low vision or night vision cameras)

Wired and wireless configurations

The Good News

A few months ago, we were able to watch a 2 a.m. break-in at a retail center on our CCTV cameras. The next morning, we were able to share our information with the police for them to identify the burglars. Unfortunately, the cameras were not designed to take into consideration the glare of the street lighting against the license plates and we were not able to make a solid identification of the plates. But we were able to identify the perpetrators and identify the make and model of the vehicle which helped the police solve the case.

Video and storage technology have made huge gains in enabling video surveillance and helping our client’s preserve their properties, but video surveillance is not yet fool proof. One of the challenges is who is going to watch all the data that is being collected?  We expect the next iteration of software will use artificial intelligence to help us identify actionable problems that we can respond to more quickly.

In the meantime, video surveillance is a huge improvement and creates a significant deterrent to crime. Owners of properties in crime zones need to seriously consider the use of video surveillance. To help you with that process, we have attached a checklist that you might find helpful as you make decisions to select a CCTV system.

CCTV Checklist

System Requirements:

What areas require coverage by the CCTV system?

What are the assets that need to be protected?

Critical infrastructure

Entries

Where are the areas of greatest vulnerability?

Does the information technology infrastructure adequately support the number of cameras?

Internet bandwidth

Line of sight for wireless

Will the system integrate with an existing security system?

Will the system integrate with an existing electronic access system?

Does the security budget cover regular maintenance, training and upgrades to the system?

Camera Requirements:

What is the desired image quality?

What size is the desired field of view (FOV)?

How much lighting is available? (Night vision needed?)

Will the camera be installed indoors or outdoors?

Will the video be monitored on a full-time basis?

How will video be transmitted?

Will the camera be exposed to extreme conditions?

Site Reviews:

Environment

Exposure (water, temperature, extremes)

Locations

Access points

Parking lot

Perimeter

Other

Light levels (day & night)

Will car lights obscure license plates?

View (normal, wide angle, zoom)

Power

Housings: dome, weather-resistant, tamper-resistant

Mounts: wall, pole

Display

Recorders

Transmission: wired? Wireless?

Storage

Clifford A. Hockley is President of Bluestone & Hockley Real Estate Services, greater Portland’s full service real estate brokerage and property management company. He is a Certified Property Manager and has achieved his Certified Commercial Investment Member designation (CCIM).  Bluestone & Hockley Real Estate Services is an Accredited Management Organization (AMO) by the Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM). Cliff is also the author of Successful Real Estate Investing – a book on how to invest wisely, avoid costly mistakes and make money.