Advantages & Disadvantages of CCTV Cameras

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Close-up of a CCTV camera mounted on the side of a building
Close-up of a CCTV camera mounted on the side of a building (Image: photoncatcher/iStock/Getty Images)

Closed circuit television cameras are used in a variety of circumstances to provide video surveillance. School districts use CCTV to monitor the activity on school campuses. Businesses use CCTV cameras to monitor the behavior of employees. CCTV can also help retail establishments by providing protection against loss from theft. However, the use of CCTV surveillance is not without controversy. Each establishment must weigh the benefits and drawbacks to decide if CCTV is the right method of protection.

Crime Deterrent

If CCTV cameras constantly monitor a retail business, criminals will likely seek an easier target. If employees know that they are constantly being watched, they are less likely to steal from their employer or waste time on the job. School children who know that their every move is being recorded may be less likely to carry guns to school or engage in criminal activities on campus. The effect of surveillance cameras in Philadelphia was studied over a two year period. While crime in the surveillance areas dropped overall by 13 percent, the number of areas where crime did go down was equal to the number of areas that so no drop at all.

Protect Employees

Customer service employees are often required to handle angry or frustrated customers. Face-to-face interactions with an angry customer can put the employee in physical danger. CCTV cameras may save employees from harm by monitoring these volatile situations. They also serve as a deterrent from violent behavior by these customers.

Keeps a Record

If a crime occurs in an establishment that has installed CCTV surveillance, investigation will be aided by the video. If an argument occurs between two employees, the employer can consult the videotape to determine what actually happened.

CCTV Doesn't Always Work

Unfortunately, CCTV is usually not able to display every square inch of a business or facility. Even if the cameras are positioned correctly, there is no guarantee that the cameras will catch any crime or unwanted behavior done on the property. These cameras can sometimes be thwarted by covering them up or by sticking a piece of chewing gum on the lenses. When cameras are high above the ground, criminals can avoid detection simply by holding their heads down. Someone who is familiar with the property may still be able to get around the surveillance and avoid getting caught. If the cameras are positioned incorrectly, the high traffic areas of the facility will not be shown on camera. In this case, much of the behavior that the CCTV cameras are designed to detect will not be captured on tape.

Privacy

CCTV surveillance sometimes causes controversy. Opponents of CCTV systems object to the invasion of privacy that occurs with constant video monitoring. Employees under constant surveillance by CCTV cameras often oppose such monitoring of their daily behavior.

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