Closed Circuit Television or CCTV seems to be projected as a solution to lots of security problems, including terrorism. Govt/Police department wants CCTVs to be installed in all the places- ATMs, bars, public places etc. But installing CCTV alone is just not adequate, one should factor the following:
- There should be adequate lighting for a CCTV to be able to capture decent pictures. CCTVs do not have flash and can’t capture good footage in darkness. Hence it is important to have adequate streetlights that work in the night.
- CCTVs need maintenance. Most departments install CCTV for compliance purpose and then forget to upkeep them. CCTVs are susceptible to bad weather, broken wirings, physical/electrical damage etc. Unless they are inspected periodically and maintained well, they are useless
- CCTVS should have good resolution. Low resolution cameras can only capture shape of the person and can’t capture his/her face from a distance clearly. This defies the purpose.
- Public should be careful about those who walk around with their faces covered - those wearing helmets, burkhas and other form of stuff to cover their face. Without a clear face, the footage captured is practically useless. Some ATMs have sticker indicating NOT to wear helmets, caps etc while using ATM. But this is not enforced in most places. Also no one dares to ask a Burkha clad women (or whoever is inside it) to open up and show their faces.
- CCTVs should be checked for infinite looping. In all action movies, a general practice is to fix a bug to the camera that loops a fixed footage infinitely, so that those in control room won’t see live action but repeated replay of pre-recorded footage. I am not sure how easy it is to hack a camera and make it loop the same footage. One trick to check for this is to keep an analogue clock in-front of the camera or check it manually at regular intervals.
- CCTVs should be more than one in number and should cover couple of angle. If there’s only one camera, it is very easy for a culprit to do a crime in such a way that he never have to expose his face to the camera. Having at least 2 cameras capturing from different position/angle will reduce such a risk.
- People who monitor CCTVs should have an eye for suspicious behavior. Say a van stops right in-front of the camera blocking the view and stays there for long time, security staff should have an instinct to check for possible suspicious activities on the other side of the van.
- CCTV backup duration: Most of the low cost CCTVs store footage for very short time. Systems that can store footage for at least a week or more will be ideal.
- Choosing between video and stills: While CCTVs can record video footage, capturing high res video all day long needs large storage space. So some CCTVs are configured to take still images at regular intervals- say every 30 seconds, which helps save on storage space. This compromise has some disadvantages as accidents can happen in between the 2 still images… (A camera that captured plane hitting Pentagon building during 9/11 couldn't get the impact correctly because of similar situation)