As a leading CCTV monitoring station, we talk a lot about the ‘proactive’ crime prevention benefits that monitored CCTV surveillance can deliver. We define these as – Deterrence, Detection, Prevention and Response.
However, CCTV camera footage of an incident can be vital in providing ‘retrospective’ benefits too. CCTV surveillance video footage can provide vital evidence that assists police investigations and even criminal prosecutions. In this article we explore these five key benefits that make CCTV monitoring such as an important component of modern security measures and policing in the UK too.
Why choose a monitored CCTV surveillance system to protect what’s yours?
In recent years CCTV surveillance has become an essential pillar of security delivering the ability to proactively prevent many crimes from progressing as well as retrospectively enabling crucial investigation of incidents that do progress despite the presence of the preventative security measures.
Proactive CCTV security: Deterrence through the presence of CCTV surveillance and prevention of incident progression with ‘front footed’ CCTV operator response which includes audio deterrent warnings and real-time escalation to keyholders and blue light first responders.
Retrospective CCTV security: CCTV footage can provide crucial evidence to support police and other emergency services in gathering evidence relating to an incident. This evidence can, under certain circumstances, be used in court to support prosecution.
Below we explore the top five proactive and retrospective security benefits of monitored CCTV surveillance in more detail…
1. Proactive CCTV Surveillance – ‘Deterrence’
The visual presence of a monitored CCTV system at a premises signifies just that – the premises is being monitored and if an intruder enters the restricted are they will be seen, tracked and recorded whilst they are onsite.
Deterring would-be intruders before entry onto your premises is the ‘ideal’ outcome and the mere presence and visibility of CCTV cameras can do just that. In fact, The Guardian reported that the presence of CCTV is the number 1 deterrent for burglars. This is based on research suggests carried out by Co-Op Insurance in consultation with panel of former criminals.
2. Proactive CCTV Surveillance – ‘Detection’
If modern security was as easy as putting up warnings signs on perimeter fences and having CCTV cameras visible, that would be great. Unfortunately, some intruders are not that easily put off. If an intruder is hellbent on getting into a premises to steal what’s inside, knowing they are there is critical.
Modern CCTV surveillance systems can detect a potential incident as it happens, in real-time, with a range of detection technology from external or built in PIR (Passive Infra Red) detectors, AIR (Active Infra Red) beam detectors or thermal heat detectors and AI (artificial intelligence that can detect predetermined threats) – to name a few. Once an incident is detected, what happens next, while the incident is in progress, can make the difference between watching the incident retrospectively after it has unfolded or proactively responding to a potential theft, criminal damage incident or even injury before it happens…
Where a CCTV surveillance system is monitored by a professional CCTV monitoring station, this early detection means that an experienced CCTV operator will receive an event activated alarm notification and will immediately investigate the event by viewing the live CCTV footage to determine the cause, the threat and level of response necessary to prevent the incident from progressing.
In the case of a genuine incident in progress, the CCTV operator response includes notifying pre-authorised keyholders of the premises as well as blue light emergency first responders where necessary. The fact that the detected incident has been assessed by trained CCTV operators and has been ‘visually verified‘ (in real-time) as a genuine incident adds a great deal of credibility which can have a direct bearing on the priority of response given by emergency services.
Each and every incident is recorded, logged and available to the site owner on a dedicated secure communications platform called YourSight. This footage and incident log can be invaluable for later police investigation and prosecution evidence.
3. Proactive CCTV Surveillance – ‘Prevention’
Once it becomes clear that an unauthorised person is onsite or an incident is in progress at a premises, how can CCTV surveillance prevent that incident from progressing? Audio warnings can be a powerful crime deterrent. Live audio warnings issued by CCTV operators whilst they have ‘eyes’ on the scene have proved to be a effective defence, often stopping potential intruders and incidents from progressing further.
Between Jan – Dec 2020 the Farsight CCTV operators issued a whopping 119,901 audio deterrent warnings. In fact, audio deterrent warnings delivered by Farsight operators through CCTV surveillance systems prevented around 90% of incidents from escalating to situations requiring emergency response.
A typical audio warning message would say something along these lines (although these live messages can be adapted to suit the circumstances around specific events happening):
“Your attention please, this is a security announcement. You’re being monitored on live CCTV. This is private property, please leave now or further action will be taken”
Audio warnings make CCTV security a preventative solution. Without audio warnings, CCTV footage would simply be recorded and reviewed retrospectively – after the damage has been done.
The following short explainer video outlines ‘How do CCTV Surveillance Audio Warnings Work?
Audio warnings can deter intruders from a site – they will become aware that they have been spotted and that the CCTV footage could be used in evidence. Not only that but they will be aware that the police will be notified if the situation escalates. As a result, thousands of pounds could potentially be saved, which could have been lost due to damage and theft by the intruder.
4. Proactive CCTV Surveillance – ‘Emergency Response’
Most businesses are protected with monitored Fire & Intruder alarms. However, unless someone is physically present to actually verify that a genuine incident has triggered an alarm, there is no guarantee that emergency services will attend. This is due to the sheer volume of false alarms that prompt calls to the emergency services diverting them away from or delaying their response to genuine incidents.
The main causes for false alarms are: faulty equipment, power source issues, human error, open doors or windows, incorrect equipment installation, environmental issues such as wind and animals & insects setting off alarms. In fact, in the case of fire alarms, 70% of unwanted/false fire alarms are down to resolvable alarm issues and due to human actions.
Contrary to popular belief, monitored alarms and CCTV surveillance systems are not connected to emergency services’ control rooms directly. Instead, they are connected to an ARC (Alarm Receiving Centre) and/or an RVRC (Remote Video Receiving Centre) who will escalate incidents as required.
A monitored CCTV surveillance system delivers the ability of visually confirming what has actually triggered an alarm by an operator. This is important in supporting the credibility of an alarm signal when escalating an incident that requires a physical response from emergency services.
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Through their monitoring station, businesses can be issued with Unique Reference Number (URN) by police which means they are initially assigned a Level 1 – Immediate police response (determined by available resources). However, following 3 false alarms in a 12 month period this response status can be reduced to Level 3 – No Police attendance unless offence witnessed – Keyholder response only.
Clearly, the latter is not ideal. Monitored CCTV surveillance is an important way of helping to protect URN status by ensuring blue light services are called in to genuine incidents only. To be able to obtain a URN, the Alarm & CCTV equipment, installers and monitoring station should be accredited by industry recognised certification bodies such as SSAIB or NSI and meet minimum standards requirements as specified by the police.
Often, our CCTV operators liaise with police to pinpoint the whereabout of intruders, especially on larger sites, to support their apprehension. The below example shows how CCTV surveillance and live communication with police supported the apprehension of these car thieves by advising police of their exact location on the site. The police were in the right place to confront the thieves when they tried to run.
Another great example of the effectiveness of CCTV Surveillance was a recent incident where a trailer packed with expensive cosmetics was stolen from a haulage yard in a well orchestrated heist. CCTV surveillance was instrumental in determining details that led police to recovering the goods within half an hour of the theft. Read more about the role of monitored CCTV surveillance in this incident here.
5. Retrospective CCTV Surveillance – ‘Police Investigation & Prosecution Evidence’
Can CCTV surveillance footage be used by police? Yes, footage can be crucial to help police investigate crimes and under certain circumstances can also be used as evidence at prosecution.
Take this case for example:
Recently, a gang of career criminals were recently convicted for a spate of commercial burglaries across the East of England occurring in Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire, Leicestershire, Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire. Their crimes amounted to £500,000 and caused damage to property and fixtures & fittings to the value £250,000. The gang targeted commercial premises including petrol stations and large supermarket chains such as Waitrose in Oundle and Tesco stores in Market Deeping, Grantham and Ramsey – stealing large amounts of cigarettes and raiding tills and ATM machines.
These organised criminals used stolen high powered getaway cars to avoid arrest and were aware of police investigation techniques, going out of their way to avoid leaving evidence such as fingerprints. They also knew the premises would be alarmed and worked quickly, filling black bags that they brought with them with cigarettes and cash. Read the full article reported by Peterborough Telegraph here.
The above image shows the gang at work at one of the commercial premises monitored by Farsight. Clearly, with no-one onsite at the time of this robbery, the CCTV surveillance footage provided a crucial insight to support the police investigation, to link the gang to other crimes with the same signatures/characteristics and ultimately supported a successful prosecution.
How useful is CCTV surveillance footage for police investigators and prosecution of crimes?
Retrospectively, CCTV surveillance footage comes into its own when a crime or incident has been committed when they are no witnesses or even to support eye witness statements. Footage can help police investigators to identify the people involved whether from facial recognition, facial mapping, gait analysis, characteristics, behaviour or clothing etc.
A leading expert witness service in the UK – Foresight outlines the fact that CCTV analysis can provide accurate forensic evidence and reliably documents the facts. It states:
“When technology comes in to play, CCTV footage is unwavering in visual consistency and can’t be undermined.”
Whilst CCTV footage has the potential to be conclusive enough to support prosecution, some footage is not deemed ‘useful’ as evidence, however. The Home Office has published guidance on CCTV requirements and by ensuring CCTV systems are capable of meeting a few simple requirements, the potential value of the pictures can be greatly increased. These requirements include:
- Quality – are the pictures good enough? Picture quality should not be reduced to fit available storage capacity.
- Storage – the system should be operated and recorded pictures stored in a secure environment for an adequate period of time & electronic controls like encryption or passwords should not prevent authorised access.
- Export – The system should be able to quickly export video and stills to a removable storage-medium, with time and date integral to each picture.
- Playback – the playback software should have variable speed control, uniform aspect ratio for multiple cameras, single camera full resolution display and the ability to search images by date and time.
The UK government has described CCTV as ‘vital’ for detecting offenders. Studies published have highlighted that ‘useful’ CCTV surveillance footage has been associated with significantly increased chances of crimes being solved. A study entitled The Value of CCTV Surveillance Cameras as an Investigative Tool: An Empirical Analysis by Matthew P.J. Ashby analysed 251,195 crimes recorded by British Transport Police and found that CCTV was useful to investigators for 65% of cases – where CCTV was available.
Farsight regularly shares CCTV surveillance footage with police on behalf of our clients, and are careful to adhere to police requirements. Our state-of-the-art Observatory houses the expertise and technology to ensure that footage we provide has the best potential of being ‘useful’ both at investigation stages and as prosecution evidence. However, the quality of the CCTV cameras and systems installed at our clients premises has a direct bearing on what we are able to provide.
Which CCTV Surveillance Systems does Farsight monitor?
Farsight collaborates with leading CCTV Systems manufacturers and suppliers, ensuring that we are able to offer our security monitoring services to the widest range of compatible equipment in the industry.
CCTV Systems that Farsight monitor include:
Let’s Talk CCTV Monitoring
You can be assured that Farsight is one of the leading CCTV monitoring companies connected to thousands of CCTV systems across the UK. Whenever and wherever you need us to keep watch, our CCTV operators’ ongoing ‘commitment to vigilance’ will give the peace of mind you need to know that your security is optimised and your premises, assets and people are in safe hands.
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