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Video Surveillance Systems Chicago

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Video Surveillance Systems Chicago

A video surveillance system can be a vital component in the overall strategy a security manager or facility manager implements to protect employees and customers and to monitor assets.  Yet, it is imperative that prior to any purchase, you do your homework to understand the basics and identify specific goals for its use.  There are numerous brands with dozens of equipment options—it can be quite the challenge determining which equipment is appropriate for your particular setting.  Moreover, cameras, recording equipment, and the resources to operate and maintain them represent a significant financial investment.  Hence, getting solid answers to these basic questions will help ascertain your needs and make you an informed buyer—all of which can save you thousands of dollars down the road.  Your decision may come down to “cost vs. risk avoidance.”

First, we’ll review some basic background information. You’ll hear different terms, such as CCTV, when discussing video surveillance systems Chicago.  Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) is basically video signals transmitted directly to monitors (vs. out to the public domain), often limited in scope, you’ll often see them used as standalone applications for environments such as office buildings, retail stores, warehouses, etc.   Digital video recorders (DVRs) are the most commonly deployed monitoring equipment used by businesses to protect their assets (analog and VCR tapes are considered dinosaurs – make the leap of faith, and adopt digital video surveillance). Similarly, digital surveillance cameras are also the most current and preferred equipment. Digital simply provides the user with more functionality, as opposed to analog; e.g., the images are of higher quality and provide many more options to playback your video, storage, etc.  IP-based video surveillance makes sense for remote monitoring of multiple locations and remote recording of data onto back-up servers for long-term storage.  With IP-based video surveillance systems Chicago, you can connect your surveillance cameras to any network or wireless adapter. These systems help businesses record video (and audio, if so desired) of events, preserving evidence for investigations by company management and/or law enforcement.  It’s a valuable tool that can often help determine what transpired, how it was done, and possibly, who did it.

Do the homework before a meeting

Security integrators are vendors who install and merge (integrate) a company’s various security technologies into a whole physical security program.  These security systems often include video monitoring, card access control, and burglar alarm (a.k.a. “intrusion detection”) systems.  Before meeting with an integrator about installing a video surveillance system, it’s critical to first define what your company is trying to accomplish with this significant financial investment.

Develop a “problem statement”

Chris Johnston, product manager, Bosch said, “A problem statement will outline specific goals of what you expect your video surveillance system Chicago to accomplish.”  These should be clearly communicated to the integrator and can even be an addendum or exhibit to any contract that’s drafted.  Document answers to basic questions, such as:

  • What assets am I trying to monitor/protect?
  • Do I need to have video surveillance in areas such as my warehouse, parking lot, and common areas of my office buildings?
  • Are my shrinkage issues within the workplace being addressed with the installation of specific pan-tilt cameras at key areas, such as my cashier machines and loading dock?
  • Is there a particular purpose for capturing video footage events?
  •  Is it going to be used for: retail theft concerns; recent workplace violence incidents; or intellectual property protection?
Caveat emptor

As with any decision, the facilities manager needs to perform due diligence on the selected vendor.  “Buyer Beware” is certainly applicable in choosing the right video equipment and the best integrator to install your system.  As with many service providers, integrators often offer a low price on the equipment and its installation, knowing they will make up this initial loss with future business and recurring revenue from their customers. For example, while the integrator may sell you a system for $99, the actual cost is much, much higher.  The integrator is hoping the customer stays on with them for multiple years, collecting monthly recurring revenue for central station monitoring, as well as any maintenance contracts.

Next, it’s very important to ensure your integrator is financially stable.  So, as Jonathan Barnthouse, account executive at Pentax, stated, “Make sure your integrator has the three “C’s.”  Triple “C” =

  • Character – quality job; easy to deal with
  • Capacity – they have the resources that allow them to grow with you
  • Capital – are they a financially stable entity

As Chris Johnston of Bosch recommends, also ask your integrator:

  • Where have you done similar installations?
  • Can you provide me with references from projects you’ve completed in the past (6) months?

For a very large installation, consider doing a small pilot project with your integrator, to measure their performance and ease of doing business with them. You could also run several, simultaneous installation projects, each with a different vendor, allowing you to compare individual performance.

Before signing that contract

You may come across an integrator who insists you’ll be getting a better price break with a long-term agreement, which may also include a maintenance contract.  Yet, the risk may be high if you find yourself locked into a vendor, especially once you find out the support you were promised is not what you’ve received, and the integration wasn’t what you had hoped.  Therefore, you want to ensure any contract you sign carefully delineates the timeframes for completion of the installation, and the agreed upon costs. Moreover, it is imperative the company is free to adopt the newest innovation in security, or take advantage of lower pricing.  Check with your legal department prior to signing any security vendor contracts.  Detaching your company from these long-term commitments to switch to another vendor can be a nightmare if the company is not protected by firm contractual language.

Upkeep of the video surveillance systems Chicago is the key

One must take into consideration all the resources (including manpower) and ongoing maintenance that are required to operate your video surveillance system. Some items to be aware of include:

  • Is someone assigned specific responsibility for ensuring the system is working as expected?
  • Does the system have backup power in the event of a power outage, and if yes, who is responsible for making sure the batteries or generator are in proper working order?
  • If you’re using a vendor for ongoing maintenance support, are they reachable 24/7?
  • Real-time constant streaming of video takes up lots of storage space/bandwidth vs. motion-activated recording only (more efficient). Is your IT department in alignment with the demands from this video surveillance system?
Video and image quality matter
  • Does your image of the perpetrator only show the top of his baseball cap? Is it too grainy?
  • Date/timestamp correct (important for evidentiary purposes)?
  • Do the numbers/lettering stamped on the video screen obstruct the area/event you’re recording?
  • Are the cameras obstructed by recent signage, balloons, furniture, etc.? Are the lenses clean?
  • Are cameras actually pointed in the right direction/angle?
  • Is the lighting correct and do your cameras account for light changes; e.g., from daylight-to-nighttime?
  • Does your setting require low-mounted cameras (which may capture facial features) or is a high overall view capturing the general area sufficient?
  • Does the resolution of the picture allow for identification?
Evidence preservation
  • Who is on point for preserving video footage in case there’s an event?
    • Does the system allow for download of video onto a CD/DVD for law enforcement?
    • What are the timeframes for the video to be overwritten or deleted entirely?
  • Understand the size and memory capability of your DVR. This will dictate storage capability (e.g., your particular system may allow up to 60 days for retrieval of a specific incident).
  • Where is it located?
    • Is your DVR hidden from view or locked in a control room, so that criminals will not take it with them or destroy it?  Consider use of a decoy DVR.
  • Who has access to the room where the DVR is located?
    •  Is there a password that must be entered prior to gaining access to the video footage? Who knows it?
  • Does your equipment have options to view a specific date/time? The level of sophistication varies per product.
  • How robust of an Incident Reporting System (an interface that allows the user to log and track incidents, pair video with corresponding internal and external documents, create and distribute user-defined reports, etc.) does your particular setting require?
Privacy and video surveillance systems Chicago —some general guidelines

Installing visible surveillance cameras in your lobby area, hallways, and other public spaces is almost always safe.  It is prudent and highly recommended that you check with your legal department prior to any video surveillance system installation, especially if it involves covert cameras to capture events/evidence in employee cubicles, offices, conference rooms and lunch areas. Visible surveillance cameras (not hidden) are generally not illegal if they are in a non-private place.  Covert video surveillance is illegal when a person under surveillance has a reasonable expectation of privacy (4th Amendment rights); i.e., in a bathroom; motel room; changing room.  The majority of surveillance laws concern the invasion of privacy with the use of covert video surveillance. Check your state’s particular laws—courts from state to state may have differing opinions as to what types of places are expected to be private—bathrooms may be “no-brainers,” yet certain states’ courts decided employee break rooms/lunch rooms are “private” for purposes of video surveillance.

Covert surveillance may be illegal when “audio” surveillance is also taking place. If the camera records sound as well as video, you must comply with federal and state wiretapping and eavesdropping laws. “Regardless of the state, it is almost always illegal to record a conversation to which you are not a party, do not have consent to tape, and could not naturally overhear.”

As to privacy concerns, manufacturer technology has advanced to allow a user to “mask” certain areas in the camera’s field of view; e.g., the housing complex across the street from the hospital’s surveillance cameras is masked, while the public domain areas can be recorded/stored, explains Bosch’s Johnston.

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