Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Value In “Dummy” Surveillance Cameras?

As both a former Director of Security and now an independent security consultant, I have rarely been a proponent of using “dummy” cameras as part of a security strategy.
Real cameras are used for several general purposes:  To monitor areas/events in real time to (hopefully) initiate appropriate response as needed; and/or to record areas/events for investigative/documentation purposes; and/or to provide a visible deterrent to inappropriate activities;  and/or to provide a heightened sense of security to the area’s legitimate users.
With that being the case for real cameras, here are the operational downsides of using “dummy” cameras:  Obviously, there is no real-time monitoring of areas/events possible, so appropriate response to problems is not possible (and it would be cost-prohibitive – and economically foolish – to try to replace cameras with personnel); and obviously, there is no recording of events for investigative/documentation purposes (the chances of personnel being able to provide comparable information are slim).   On the plus side, there might be a comparable visible deterrent to inappropriate activity, especially if the cost savings of “dummy” cameras vs. real cameras is used to provide additional “dummies.”  But even that deterrent value might be negated if poor-quality “dummy” cameras (an oxymoron?) are used which are easily identified as “dummies” because of no lights or wiring connections.  (NOTE:  the only time I have ever used “dummy” cameras was to add the impression of even more cameras to an application of real cameras which already covered everything I wanted covered.
But to me, the primary problem with the use of “dummy” cameras is an unnecessary and thus unacceptable  increase in liability.   The heightened sense of security for legitimate area users is totally negated when it is learned that there is no real protection being afforded. Legitimate users will feel betrayed and tricked when the truth is learned (and it will be – someone will find out somehow). And the worse-case scenario will be when an incident occurs and a victim questions and learns why there was no ready response or at least visual documentation of the event.  I have been involved in such cases as an expert witness (this would most probably evolve as a premises security liability lawsuit based on inadequate security) and have been able to opine that the “dummy” cameras created a false sense of security that did not truly exist, and this is actually worse than having no cameras of any kind:  at least if there are no cameras present, legitimate users will not have any expectations as to the level of security and may thus be more aware of their own responsibility for personal security; where on the contrary a legitimate user may be less aware of personal security issues since he believes that he is being “helped” by real cameras.
Bottom line for me:  “Dummy” cameras have the potential to cause more problems than they solve.

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