How can Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) help me?

CCTV systems can be used to enhance the safety and security of your business or home. Studies show that the presence of CCTV cameras may serve as a deterrent to inappropriate or illegal activity.

Also, CCTV footage can provide valuable assistance to the police when investigating crimes and prosecuting offenders.

What CCTV systems are available?

  • CCTV cameras can be used to provide real-time or recorded surveillance over large areas, i.e., property boundaries, parking lots, retail stores etc. This use of CCTV is sometimes referred to as ‘video patrol’.
  • CCTV cameras can also be integrated with other sensing systems (robbery or burglary alarms), and used to view areas not immediately accessible to personnel. This is often referred to as “event-driven cameras”.
  • CCTV can range from the simple to the complex. A CCTV system can, for instance, be used to identify individuals entering a shop or identify vehicles passing through a service station. Prior to installing a CCTV system, you should determine the main objectives of the system so that this can inform the design and the purchase of appropriate equipment.

What attributes of a CCTV System are most helpful to the police?

  • Digital systems, in which video is stored on a Digital Video Recorder (DVR), are now standard.
  • Colour CCTV systems are preferred because they provide better images than black and white.
  • All systems should record with all cameras at all times while the system is turned on. Generally, it is recommended that a CCTV system operates on a 24-hour basis.
  • All recorded vision should be watermarked with the time, date and camera number/description that recorded it.
  • The DVR used should be capable of generating a copy of the recorded vision so that it can be given to police along with any special software required to view it.
  • Consider installing a small uninterrupted power supply to provide power to the cameras should mains power fail.
  • Recorded vision should be ideally held on the recorder for at least 14 days before being overwritten.

CCTV Installation

  • The DVR should be installed in a secure location, ventilated location.
  • Access to the DVR should be strictly controlled by management.
  • A monitor should be installed with the DVR to allow viewing of the recorded vision.
  • Cameras should be firmly fixed and should not be subject to vibrations.
  • Cameras should never look directly into the sun or strong lights.
  • Cameras located outside should be positioned out of reach or be fitted with anti-tamper brackets.
  • Ensure there is sufficient light for the camera to view the scene at all times.
  • Professional advice is recommended when installing or upgrading a CCTV system.

Camera Set-Up

  • Identify ‘at risk’ areas, such as areas of high cash turn over or areas containing targeted items, and ensure they are covered by cameras.
  • Cameras installed at eye level behind counter areas or at entrances/exits will provide good quality images of offenders.
  • Ensure that any overhead mounted cameras capture sufficient facial detail of people.
  • Ensure the capture rate is set to provide clear images of the actions of people: a minimum of 6 frames per second is recommended and 25 frames per second is considered real time recording.
  • Video motion detectors can be used in areas that are used infrequently. When the CCTV system is activated and movement occurs at the target location, the DVR unit commences recording.

CCTV Maintenance

  • All systems should be regularly maintained, tested and the time and date checked for accuracy.
  • One of the primary maintenance issues associated with CCTV systems is keeping the glass front of the camera housing or the dome enclosure clean; dust and dirt will degrade images.
  • On a weekly basis management should review the vision recorded from each camera to ensure the images are still being captured with the desired view and that they are still in focus.
  • Visually check the mountings of all cameras weekly to ensure they are still securely fixed and have not been accidentally bumped or tampered with.
  • It is recommended that a maintenance contract be secured to cover CCTV installations. Such maintenance usually serves to extend the lifespan of the equipment.

CCTV Data Management

  • Recorded vision will only be useful in evidence if its integrity can be assured. Therefore, recorded vision must not be manipulated, changed or enhanced in any way.
  • The number of employees who have access to the CCTV equipment and the vision data should be limited to those essential for the system’s maintenance and operation.
  • Provide training on the operation of the system to key staff who will be providing police with the recorded vision.
  • It is important to have the CCTV system documented and a user manual on hand that describes how the system operates.
  • The person who provides footage to police will become a witness. They should be able to give evidence in court on the steps they took to make a copy of the data for the police.

Further Reading

Australian Standard 4806.1–2006: Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) — Management and Operation. This booklet provides a list of recommendations for CCTV systems regarding the management and procedures for recorded material, as well as privacy and disclosure issues, and system documentation.