When developing your security program, it is imperative to understand exactly what risk you are expecting to reduce, and utilize the best strategy to accomplish your goal. Will the program serve as a deterrent, a means of observation, or a combination of the two? Security surveillance systems utilize three categories of cameras, with each being utilized for different expected outcomes. The three types of cameras are overt, semi-covert and covert cameras. A description, and best use of each style of is listed below.
1.) Overt Cameras: An overt camera is meant to be extremely visible. Overt cameras are intentionally designed to be visible to the public and for the most part, one can easily detect what is being recorded by the direction of the camera. This style of camera is more commonly used on outside perimeter areas to show that the areas around and inside the building(s) are being recorded and or monitored.
2.) Semi-Covert: Semi-covert cameras have become increasingly more common. These cameras have a dome-shaped covering that prevents the public from identifying the direction the camera is facing. For crime prevention efforts, this type of camera is more effective for deterrence purposes because would-be offenders are unable to determine whether they are being recorded. Therefore they may refrain from criminal activity due to fear of apprehension.
3.) Covert: These cameras are hidden for security reasons and used primarily for observation rather than to achieve a deterrent effect. There are a many different approaches these cameras can be hidden, to give you the ability to observe discreetly.
Many retail stores have taken the overt camera strategy up a notch, by displaying a video monitor with a large sign stating that your actions are being recorded. When a person knows that they are being recorded, the likelihood of criminal behavior drops significantly. They understand that the likelihood of being caught committing a crime is drastically increased, and the evidence used in a prosecution is guaranteed. This provides an instant deterrent, and is a useful strategy in crime prevention.
In contrast, if the goal of your program is to “catch a criminal in the act”, then obviously a very visible strategy may not be the correct method. A covert camera may be used to observe the behavior of an employee, to investigate inventory shrinkage or to better understand their actions when they are not actively being supervised. This approach gives more insight then an overt camera strategy would.
Even with the vast security product options available on the market, the process of understanding your desired outcomes, and how best to accomplish them, remains an imperative step in designing any risk mitigation program.