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Split-second security.


PERHAPS NO EQUIPMENT DEmands a smaller margin of error than security surveillance equipment. The recovery of stolen property, the prosecution of criminals, the preservation of classified technology--all can depend on capturing within a split second an image on film or videotape, a single image that can save millions of dollars and, in some cases, lives.

What businesses demand such accuracy? Any business with a product, customers, or employees is subject to the illegal attainment of its possessions and therefore should consider security surveillance equipment. The reasons for installing such equipment, however, can differ greatly.

Traditionally, the production of a recognizable photograph used to apprehend and prosecute a criminal has been the primary motive for installing security surveillance systems. In the last 20 years, however, the emphasis has changed from protecting tangible goods to protecting the lives of customers and employees who are often at risk in a robbery. For this reason, a second motive has evolved: deterrence. Although more difficult to measure on a cost basis, a camera's assistance in preventing crimes simply by being visible is just as important as its assistance in prosecuting criminals after the fact.

Regardless of the type of business or specific motive for installing the equipment, the same bottom line remains. Successful surveillance--the ability to deter or prosecute--depends not only on the equipment itself but on its installation, maintenance, and correct use.

The Bank Protection Act of 1968 made the decision to purchase surveillance equipment an easy one for banks by establishing minimum security standards for all federally regulated and insured financial institutions. The decision is not quite as clear-cut, however, for other establishments. Certainly facilities that have experienced a robbery should consider surveillance equipment. Other types of theft, including shoplifting or employee theft, may have a subtle but substantial impact over time; photographic surveillance, if properly used, can prevent such losses.

The location of a retail store, bank, warehouse, or any other facility can also affect the need for surveillance. Its vulnerability due to lack of security personnel or nearby buildings should be considered.

The cost of surveillance equipment varies dramatically and increases depending on the degree of sophistication. One obvious consideration is not to spend more on a surveillance system than it will potentially save. For some smaller retail establishments, an additional cost saving might be in lower insurance rates due to in-store protection.

THREE CHOICES EXIST IN photographic surveillance: motion picture photography, closed-circuit television (CCTV), and still photography. Each has its strengths and weaknesses -- motion picture photography sacrifices clarity for very rapid sequence and CCTV with recording capability suffers from lack of clarity and high start-up cost but offers immediacy and long-term cost savings. Many experts recommend still photography for optimum clarity, effectiveness, and cost justification.

The effectiveness of still photography is evident in the statistics. An average of 70 to 80 percent of bank robbers identified by still photography cameras are apprehended. The most widely known example is Patty Hearst, who in 1974 was kidnapped and held up a bank as a member of the Symbionese Liberation Army. Photos of Hearst with her automatic rifle were taken at four frames per second and used in the prosecution of her companions in crime.

Additional choices abound within the still photography category, each dependent on the application:

Continuous vs. demand. Cameras in a continuous mode are set to take photographs at prescribed intervals, ranging from one frame every second to one frame every 45 seconds. Since the average robbery takes only three minutes, the preset feature reduces the chance of human error in failing to activate the camera in such a short time. Reduced risk to employees is another favorable consideration of continuous cameras.

Still cameras that operate on demand, also known as suspicious cameras, are activated by an employee on the premises who feels uneasy about an individual's presence in the facility. Suspicion shots are typically activated by a button or switch within easy reach of an employee.

Semiautomatic holdup cameras are a variation of suspicious cameras. They require a holdup device activation that trips a silent alarm to a remote location while activating the camera. Such installations are most effective in facilities that experience a high degree of crime.

Demand cameras offer substantial savings in film cost compared to continuous cameras. The trade-off is in relying on personnel to activate the camera in time, if at all. The risk of being discovered activating the camera is the most serious disadvantage of demand cameras. The best and safest results are obtained when personnel are instructed to activate the camera when they first become suspicious, not after a crime has been initiated.

Hidden vs. visible. An important choice must be made on camera selection: to install it in full view or hide it. The answer lies in the initial objective to deter or prosecute. Visible installations are often selected for their deterence value even though that value is difficult to measure. Hidden camera installations are less popular because most companies opt to prevent a crime rather than commit to the time and expense of presecution.

When installing visible cameras, it is ofter advantageous to position them over building exits. This allows the subject to be photographed head-on, and he or she may be less guarded--even in the process of removing a disguise when exiting the facility. However, many defendants have been photographed from this position only and look as if they are simply leaving the facility like any other customer. Multiple camera positions are usually necessary to acquire both a clear, head-on image of the defendant and a shot of the crime being committed.

IF THE OBJECTIVE BEHIND THE purchasing decision is to ensure convictions, the film used should play a key role. Film size should be based on one factor: The size of the image must be large enough to do the job the equipment was purchased to do.

One of the most stringent aspects of the Bank Protection Act requires an enlarged head size of one inch high for a photograph to be submitted as evidence in a trial. Of the three film sizes available--16mm, 35mm, and 70mm--35mm film generally strikes the best balance between detail and price. Again, the application becomes a vital consideration. Sixteen millimeter film produces good images if used for a small area of coverage, usually within 10 ft. Protection against fraudulent check cashing at the teller window is feasible with the 16mm size.

Wide, sweeping views of an entire facility are possible with 35mm film, which has eight times the image area of 16mm. Subjects photographed 50 ft. away from the camera can be enlarged to the extent that ear shape, skin texture, and small scars are readily identifiable. In previous cases, unique jewelry or the way a defendant's shoes were tied was captured on film with enough detail to lead to apprehension and conviction.

The right camera with the right film shot from the best angle--all these factors are irrelevant if the film cannot be used as evidence due to faulty procedures on the part of employees. Having the defendant on film is not sufficient. Proof that it was that film taken on that day of that defendant must be secured before the film can be admitted as evidence in court. The FBI takes possession of the film and witnesses its development for this reason.

The abundance of clocks and calendars in most banks is not an accident but rather one method of recording the exact time a surveillance photo was taken. Some cameras come equipped with a time and date generator, which records the data directly onto each photograph. This is especially helpful when the camera is used continuously to uncover fraudulent check cashing.

Sufficient proof for a conviction results from properly trained employees and a cooperative effort between the company and law enforcement agencies. Failure to allow a third party to obtain and review the film could result in the dismissal of the film as valid evidence, rendering the surveillance equipment useless in prosecution.

Employees are also required to complete identification forms to support the visual evidence provided by the film. Bodily characteristics, voice, attire, weapons, and escape tactics of the accused must all be recorded on paper as soon as possible after the crime. Failure to complete one of the prescribed procedures accurately provides the grounds to disqualify even the best photograph as evidence.

THE ORIGINAL OBJECTIVES FOR investing in a surveillance system are meaningless if the camera does not operate for the very seconds it is needed most. Most surveillance equipment on the market is comparable, so it is the service and expertise of the equipment manufacturers that weighs heavily in the purchase decision.

A manufacturer should test its camera equipment about every six months for operational readiness. The test should consist of two parts: a hardware check and a processing check. A camera's hardware should be checked to ensure the camera mechanism is free and operative and the aim and focus are correct. Even a 3 [degrees] aiming error due to cleaning or film changing can result in a 25 percent loss of visible viewing area. Film should also be reloaded if the supply becomes low. Authorities expect a minimum of three minutes of unexposed film to be in the camera at any given time.

A processing check, on the other hand, involves on-site testing of the film by the manufacturer's service representative. The representative should activate the camera for test purposes, then submit the test film to the manufacturer for processing. Processing checks should be done within six months' time since film quality begins to deteriorate after this period.

The service capability of the manufacturer is put to the test more on the processing check function than any other. If a test photo is unacceptable due to improper lighting or incorrect shutter speed or aim, the camera should be restored to acceptable operating condition as soon as possible by the service representative.

The company should document any necessary corrections by sending a full report of the problem, cause, and recommended solution to the branch and area managers in the customer's area. When the problem is corrected, a good photo should be sent to the customer. The reports and photographs ensure cameras are again working properly.

A company's maintenance and testing process can become the critical factor in effective photographic surveillance. The company should take customer service one step further by offering training programs in camera operation and criminal identification.

The key element in any photographic surveillance--whatever the hardware--boils down to effective operation within a few precious seconds. The camera only provides a deterrent. Successful surveillance is most reliant on the mutual commitment of the manufacturer and customer to reduce the potential losses inflicted by crime.

PHOTO : Still surveillance cameras are often positioned near building exits to get a head-on photo

PHOTO : of the subject.

Ed Scherer is manager of service agreements for Mosler Inc. in Hamilton, OH.
COPYRIGHT 1989 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Scherer, Ed
Publication:Security Management
Date:Aug 1, 1989
Previous Article:Private Security and the Public Interest.
Next Article:The public perspective.

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