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I spy.

OVER THE PAST 20 YEARS COvert camera surveillance has come of age, becoming a widely accepted practice used by many companies. Security directors see covert video surveillance as one of the most cost-effective and simple solutions to many frequent and basic security violations.

When companies first introduced off-the-shelf hidden camera systems two decades ago, the only other alternative was a do-it-yourself approach that frustrated security people. The cameras used super 8 mm film that would take a picture at adjustable intervals. Although efficient, portable, and cost-effective, these cameras had many limitations.

Light level was critical since the cameras could not see in poorly lit areas. They could only be used for employee theft since the film had to be developed, making immediate viewing impossible.

In addition, security staff had to change film cartridges at least once a day, which not only was a nuisance but also could jeopardize the integrity of the surveillance. The lenses on the super 8 mm cameras were fixed and, therefore, did not always accommodate the field of view necessary for a specific room.

With all these drawbacks, why were these cameras a success? Compared to the alternative, a staffed surveillance, the cameras were tremendously cost-effective. Here was a piece of equipment that would give a security director an extra pair of eyes for pennies a day. It did not sleep, eat, or take breaks. It told its story quickly and objectively, and it would retell it the same way every time.

The modem age in covert surveillance came with the improvement and enhancements in the closed-circuit television (CCTV) industry in the mid-to late 1970s. The single most important factor in the covert camera industry was the miniaturization of the CCTV camera. The technology enabled companies to give clients a covert camera that would work well in poor light or even no light at all, and a camera could have a normal, wide, or superwide field of view.

These developments also enabled companies to develop disguises that were not possible with the bulky film cameras of early generations. Cameras became more flexible. A customer could snap a camera into one disguise for one surveillance, then easily remove and install it in another disguise for a second surveillance. Cameras were disguised as emergency lights, clocks, speakers, suitcases, live plants, and mannequins.

The new generation of hidden cameras works in conjunction with all CCTV accessories, greatly increasing the flexibility of covert camera setups. Time-lapse recorders, quad multiplexers, and video motion detectors are now commonly used with the covert camera to eliminate all prior restrictions. Hidden cameras today are used not only for employee theft but also to apprehend shoplifters and visitors who violate security. They are also used in locations where discretion and ethical considerations are important such as in airports, executive areas, and corporate headquarters.

Many companies want a covert system that is portable and can be easily moved. This type of product is called a hidden, self-contained recording system, most easily described as a camera, monitor, and recorder in one common disguise.

These systems are AC or battery operated and also come in many disguises, such as suitcases, attache cases, and industrial drums. The self-contained recording system is placed in a location where it sees and records all activity. The unit is then retrieved and the tape is reviewed.

Covert surveillance has come a long way. It is useful not just for large companies but for any company that has employee theft problems. Theft problems alone make covert camera surveillance useful to almost every employer.

About the Author . . . David Hersh is president and CEO of Carol Products Co. Inc., De-Tech Systems, and Mica Design Inc. All three companies are in Ocean, NJ. Hersh is a member of ASIS. Carol Hersh is executive vice president of Carol Products Co. Inc.
COPYRIGHT 1990 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Lights! Camera! Action! supplement; closed-circuit TV in security systems
Author:Hersh, David; Hersh, Carol
Publication:Security Management
Date:Mar 1, 1990
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