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Closed-Circuit Television Surveillance and Security Essay

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Updated: Aug 18th, 2020

Physical Security/Fraud and Information Security


Security constitutes a major risk that organizations and individuals strive to mitigate in an effort to reduce incidences of loss or even damage of property. The aim of enhancing security within organizational, private, and public settings is to “protect systems, organizations, and society from those with the intentions of committing harm” (Warren and Gill, 2010, p.49). Intentions to cause harm to emanate from various sources including terrorists, criminals, gangs, and any other party having stakes in terms of benefiting from an activity considered illegal under social or national legal provisions. Security threats may also be attributed to organizational employees, rival organizations, and even opportunistic criminals (Goold, 2004, p.15). Faced with the perception of security risks, it becomes important to seek mechanisms of developing surveillance and enhancement of strategies for the mitigation of risks. One of the strategies for developing surveillance for security risks that have dominated civilization encompasses private and public policing. In all nations across the globe, many areas such as car parks, shopping malls, and banks among others have the presence of security guards if not police officers.

These security agents perceive security risks and take the necessary steps towards the elimination or minimization of the same. In this sense, they act as physical security systems. As societies continue to develop and evolve, new types of security risks are introduced while some forms of physical security systems have been failing. This aspect has led to the emergence of new forms of physical security systems to counter the changing security threats by improvising mechanisms of security threats perceptions and surveillance. Such systems include Closed Circuit Television (CCTV). This paper lays background to the development of security systems with a particular focus on discussing the factors considered when introducing CCTV surveillance. It also compares the properties and limitations of the disparate types of CCTV cameras.

Overview of physical security systems

Safety and security on human beings and property pose a great challenge to the development of civilization. In particular, security concerns have led to a drastic advancement in designing physical security systems. Physical security systems address any situation that threatens the safety and security such as fire outbreaks, theft, terrorism, and natural calamities (Warren and Gill, 2010, p.109). All measures such as physical protection barriers, security guards, access control systems, and electronic surveillance are installed to manage potential risks. Physical security denies intruders’ access to facilities and their components, and thus it ensures protection to people and property. Security guards play a great role in enhancing security through the creation of interventions and barriers to the successful execution of criminal activities. However, security remains threatened as the continued use of physical security barriers cannot address emerging forms of security breaches especially in the wake of the technological revolution.

The prevailing risks against security have resulted in further innovation and inventions by the security systems designers. Technology has influenced the development in security systems tremendously and enhanced the security personnel capability to respond to acts that may pose insecurity on the property beyond levels to which some physical security systems can perceive (Goold, 2004, p.51). Despite the security personnel being compromised, their involvement in physical protection cannot be overlooked. The management and operation of security systems consider the contribution of security personnel in eliminating risks while operating in conjunction with technological systems of crime prevention and detentions such as CCTVs.

The complexity of the physical security system has advanced tremendously due to the development of technology from analog to digital imaging. This aspect has led to the emergence of digital cameras and closed-circuit televisions. Digital technology has become popular due to its reliability and low cost (Hood, 2003, p.241). The incorporation of digital imaging in computer technology has led to incredible developments in communication technology, which act to provided easier and reliable crime detection solutions to most security challenges. For a long time, the transmission of information has gone through a myriad of setbacks including the high cost of installation, the bulkiness of equipment, and limited transmission speed especially in video transmission (Hood, 2003, p.241). The emergence of the Internet in the world of communication caused radical worldwide changes in the mechanism of transfer of information. In the security industry, the transmission of the video has become comparatively cheaper, faster, cost-effective, and a reasonably reliable method in protection against crimes and easy apprehension of crime.

The closed-circuit television installation requires well-trained personnel who are not only experts in technology, but also sensitive to security needs. The CCTV technology has grown from monochrome solid-state cameras to color cameras. The process of video CCTV technology development and storage devices for permanent custody of video images has raised big concern that led to the invention of video cassette recorder (VCR) and digital video recorder (DVR), which made the visual security industry advance in camera surveillance. VCR and DVR enabled the permanent recording of video in magnetic tapes and solid-state drives (Goold, 2004, p.17). In the security industry, permanent recording of visual images serves as proof in response to security offenses or training material. CCTV cameras are located in strategic points to keep a remote watch on behalf of security operators.

The camera type application depends on the nature of the location that the camera serves. Overt CCTV cameras are large and exposed to detect and deter potential crimes in remote locations. In contrast, covert cameras are tiny and usually hidden to detect intrusion in areas, which have minimal activities through the record of the scene is required. In such locations with low light level (LLL), intensity cameras with charged coupled devices (CCD) are installed (Goold, 2004, p.67). The scenes from all locations are displayed on monitors located in special monitoring rooms for the security personnel to watch over and respond as required. Accessibility to video and electronic equipment stands equally important with other security concerns including identification processes from an inbuilt access control gadget such as electronic card reading

The security performance of CCTV security systems is relevant to other aspects like security lighting, landscape, and alarm systems. Security lights deter intruders approaching a facility as well as illuminating the scene to a range of wavelength visible to the camera. Light intensity depending on the camera type determines the quality of the images recorded (Kruegle, 2011, p.31). Weather conditions also play a great role in affecting the resultant performance of cameras. Rainfall, fog, humidity, and mirage due to hot sun distort the scene image formed. Often, thermal infrared cameras supersede the problem of invisibility by filtering the white visible light from the scene by forming a monochrome image. These arguments suggest that some factors should be considered before installing CCTV surveillance systems within a facility.

Factors considered when introducing CCTV surveillance

CCTV images as a source of evidence

The installation of CCTV surveillance systems is crucial in helping to provide mechanisms of gathering digital evidence in the event of the occurrence of criminal activity within an establishment. Analysis of images captured by CCTV cameras is credible in the process of subsequent execution of justice. In fact, according to Warren and Gill (2010, p.30) “many workplaces investigations now require the acquisition and analysis of CCTV images, computer data, and related digital information to support vital decisions such as whether to discipline or dismiss an employee.” This assertion suggests that CCTVs form crucial systems for risk perception within an organization.

For the deployment of images captures using CCTVs in criminal and even legal proceedings in a court of law, important qualities of credible digital evidence should be met. One such quality is the degree of accuracy and dependability of the information. Data obtained from digital sources should be not tampered with or even modified in any way (Warren and Gill, 2010, p.31). Secondly, the data should be authentic in the sense that it is stored securely at all times (Warren and Gill, 2010, p.31). Investigators using CCTV evidence are required to acquire the evidence, process, and store it in a way that enhances integrity. Failure to conform to these requirements leads to the compromise of the investigation processes. These arguments suggest that certain aspects should be considered when selecting the type of CCTV equipment to install within an organization in a bid to provide means of physical security surveillance.

The purpose of installation

The selection of the location of CCTVs and indeed the decision to introduce them within an organization and in public places are subject to the perceptions of the purpose for which they are meant to serve. CCTVs do not prevent crime through the provision of physical barriers, which implies that they do not offer benefits of prevention of access coupled with making property hard to steal or limit the degree of assault. However, it is crucial to understand that this limitation of CCTVs as physical security systems does not mean that they are not part of situational crime management mechanisms. Despite the functionalities of CCTVs within strategic locations within an organization, their chief purpose is to trigger certain perpetual perceptions within the mind of potential offenders. They trigger the perception that if people commit a crime they will be caught automatically. Hence, CCTVs raise the perception of the risk of being caught, which suggests that CCTVs do not prevent committing the crime; however, the recognition of their presence acts as the main mechanism of crime prevention. Hence, the ability of an organization to create awareness of the presence of CCTVs in managing crime, especially the ones acerbated by employees in the belief that they would not be caught, is an essential factor to consider when introducing CCTV surveillance systems within an organization.

The offender posing a security risk of loss or damage of property reconsiders indulging in intended crime in an event of failure of the successful completion of the crime to give the anticipated rewards. This scenario plays out when a potential criminal is fully aware of the presence of security cameras (Goold, 2004, p.17). Unfortunately, evidence suggests that even though “implementers install a system, have a publicity campaign, and place signage, there is no guarantee that the population will be aware of the cameras” (Goold, 2004, p.37). For instance, “fifteen months after CCTV cameras were installed in Glasgow within the city center, only 41 % of people interviewed had awareness of the presence of the cameras” (Goold, 2004, p.51). In research conducted by Honess and Charman (1992, p.37), only 33 % of the respondents were aware that they were talking in the presence of CCTV cameras. These findings highlight the importance of consideration of the ability of an organization to enhance the awareness of the presence of the CCTV cameras upon their introduction in an organization.

Apart from the inherent shortcomings rooted in the fact that people might not realize the presence of CCTV cameras in a certain area, there is no assurance that the realization of the presence of CCTV cameras would deter an offender from committing a crime. Welsh and Farrington’s (2004, p.498) suggest, “CCTVs should provide the capability for guardianship, which is necessary to prevent a crime, but this concept requires that offenders demonstrate rationality in their behavior”. Unfortunately, a person under the influence of substance and drugs may forget or even fail to remember s/he is exposed to CCTV surveillance when arriving at a decision to engage in acts that pose risks to the property that is protected by CCTV surveillance systems. Hence, while introducing CCTV surveillance, people should consider the capacity of people to developed awareness of the effects of the CCTVs on their behavior.

In case potential offenders have low probabilities of recognizing the implication of CCTVs in relation to indulgence in crimes, the focus for an organization should shift towards capturing as opposed to prevention. Introducing CCTV systems to serve this purpose requires other physical security systems such as the police to respond with urgency to any security threat identified by CCTV operators. It is also important for an organization to develop an awareness that criminal justice has the ability to pursue and convict crimes acerbated by the arrested offenders. This aspect suggests that this approach to the management of security risks using CCTV yields results in case offenders are prevented from acerbating further crimes within areas under the surveillance of CCTV cameras.

CCTVs system used in the context of other physical security systems

One of the major interrogatives that managers should pose and evaluate before introducing CCTV systems is whether it is the best option. In research conducted by Welsh and Farrington (2004, p.497), members of the public were provided with four alternatives for enhancing security within public areas. These alternatives included increment of police patrols, installation of brighter lights in the streets, an increment of private guards’ patrols, and installation of CCTVs. Scores on the opinions from the respondents indicated that CCTVs ranked third with the increase of police patrol and brighter lights in the streets securing the first and second rank respectively. This realization implies that even though CCTV cameras have the ability to provide surveillance within areas in which crimes may occur, they cannot replace the roles played by other physical security systems such as the police. Indeed, they do not possess the ability to replace the services provided by other physical security systems.

The implementation of resources and cost-effectiveness of CCTVs in comparison to other options encompasses also important aspects for evaluations of other options to CCTVs. CCTVs require time for requisition coupled with the installation. They also require time to establish operational procedures, allocate spaces, and put staffing structures in place. This process consumes an immense amount of time and in some situations, it results in high costs of enhancing security within an organization or in public places. The introduction of CCTVs is also a long-term fix to security problems as opposed to a short time fix.

In the selection of alternatives to CCTVs, it is important to determine the focus of a risk reduction strategy. Where the focus is on a single and specific source of the threat, the appropriate response mechanisms should only focus on the specific threat. For instance, instead of the installation of CCTV cameras on the entire building where the threat is burglary, the installation of security grills or even reinforcing doors may be quicker to implement and the cost-effective way of prevention of security risks (Welsh and Farrington, 2004, p.498). Even if after an intensive analysis of the most suitable options for enhancing security surveillance CCTVs emerge as the most suitable option, before the acquisition of the CCTV systems, additional consideration such as determination of the necessary camera configurations and functionality and location of the cameras are important aspects.

Camera configurations

Overt systems, covert systems, and semi-covert systems are the three important CCTV camera configurations. Overt configurations have high public visibilities. “Signs and other indicators explaining to the public that they are within an area with the surveillance of the CCTVs accompany overt systems” (Hood, 2003, p.234). The systems mainly focus on the prevention of crimes; however, they are more prone to vandalism coupled with tampering due to their high visibility attributes. Covert systems are installed such that they are invisible to the public. Hence, they are less prone to vandalism and tampering. They are well adapted to detecting crime. Given that there is a lack of notifications on their presence in installations, the public gains information on their presence only through the arrested offending communities. Semi-covert systems “are in view of the public; however, concealing is made on the camera via transparent casings, and this way, the preventive approach of overt systems is enhanced while still ensuring the protection of the camera” (Hood, 2003, p.235). Since cameras may not be installed in every casing, the public cannot determine exactly the number of CCTV cameras installed.

Functionality and location of cameras

The amount of financial resources committed in the installation of CCTV systems is a function of anticipated functionalities of the CCTV cameras. In case the main purpose of the installation of CCTV systems is to enhance deterrence, the presence of cameras is satisfactory. This aspect implies that it is inappropriate to commit large sums of resources in updating CCTVs surveillance technology. Instead, the major focus is on the effectiveness of communication with security agents such as the police to enhance speedy response when alerted about incidences of crime by camera operators.

Where the main purpose of installations of CCTV systems entangles conviction coupled with the prosecution, commitment of large amounts of resources in recent CCTV technologies becomes justified. This aspect includes buying state of art resolution cameras coupled with recording equipment. High vision cameras at night with high image clarities at long-distance shots are also important in such situations. Additional features may also encompass casing for proofing bullets, the ability to detect motions, facial recognitions coupled with the system’s ability to defend itself from attacks such as the ability to orient other cameras to a given location where a given camera is attached. These functionality requirements increase the costs for the CCTV security systems while not necessarily enhancing the reduction of crimes, although system survivability coupled with probabilities of crime detection increases.

Manufactures of CCTVs systems provide information on functionalities and other activities entangling the usage of CCTV cameras. However, no information is provided on the exact locations of the cameras. Hence, it is important to put into consideration the location of cameras while making a decision to introduce them within public areas and within an organization. Where the sole purpose of installing CCTV surveillance systems is availing mechanism of providing evidence for use in prosecutions, camera locations should ensure adequate capturing of images that can enhance the process of crime analysis. In this line of thought, Honess and Charman (1992, p.11) point out that if “schemes are orchestrated and primarily directed by local authorities, there is a risk that police can be excluded from the crucial design stage, including the placement of cameras.” Where the performance of the surveillance systems is measured from the context of crime reductions, locating CCTV cameras using any other approach apart from crime distribution may not yield any significant achievement in terms of crime incidences reduction. Hence, “the choice of camera locations should, ideally, result in a high-quality crime analysis that not only incorporates a micro-level mapping of local crime patterns, but also an appreciation for the types of crime the system aims to target” (Hood, 2003, p.233). In fact, different CCTV cameras have disparate shortcomings and attributes, which enhance the achievement of various purposes for which CCTVs systems are established to serve.

Attributes and shortcomings of the various types of CCTVs cameras

In the deployment of CCTVs as physical security systems, the effectiveness in the utilization of the systems in detection of crime starts with the quality of the image. Cameras currently used for security surveillance are either CCD or CMOS. They operate as monochrome or in color modes. The cameras are either low cost or high-cost types. The low-cost types constitute a single PCB camera lens in-built in it without housing and attachment mechanisms (Kruegle, 2011, p.43). Expensive versions have the advantage as they have rugged means of mechanical attachment coupled with housing casings for protection and can accept various types of lenses. CMOS and CCD cameras have an important attribute, as they possess high sensitivities coupled with resolution levels. They also have input and output attributes, which are important for the performance of CCTV system applications. When LED IR illumination features are incorporated in the camera, they become adaptable for use in night surveillance.

Security cameras that were manufactured between the 1950s and 1980s were based on either silicon of vidcon vacuum tube technology. These cameras had the shortcoming of low resolutions and sensitivity levels. These shortcomings were countered by the emergence of solid-state CCD and CMOS cameras (Honess and Charman, 1992, p.39). In the security industry, these cameras take the forms of digital or analog types. Analog cameras colonized the security-market surveillance systems until 1990 when digital technology made digital cameras available for the security industry. Digital cameras make it possible to view images via digital displays. Solid-state cameras have undergone changes as technology advances, thus leading to the emergence of new CMOS and CCD cameras for use in the security surveillance industry.

The earliest versions of CMOS and CCD deployed 2/3 in coupled with ½ in sensors. 1/3 in, ¼ in, and ½ in sensor formats have since replaced the sensors. The new versions overcome several shortcomings of the earlier versions of CMOS and CCD cameras. The ½ in are smaller in size and they permit deployment of lenses, which are less expensive in comparison with large formats. The 1/3 and ¼ formats have better resolutions coupled with improved light sensitivities. This element ensures that they have superior qualities in the application for security surveillance. Such cameras are also precise and they have repeatable camera pixels geometry, require low operational power inputs, and have high stability coupled with high color rendition and high life span (Kruegle, 2011, p.45). In the current surveillance security industry, solid-state cameras take the form of digital, analog, and Internet formats.

Analog and digital cameras have been in use in the security industry since1990. For digital cameras, more focus has been on DSP. DSP digital cameras have the attribute of improved camera performance through capabilities to adjust according to illumination levels and integration of VMD and the ability to switch between monochrome and color modes. The Internet (IP) camera presents superior qualities in comparison to the digital cameras. Through ISP, the cameras can connect to the Internet. Via an appropriate web address, the cameras make it possible to view images recorded from any location. The cameras also provide the advantage of giving an operator the opportunity to adjust pan, zoom, and tilt among other properties of the cameras via two-way communications channels.

Operational conditions determine the type of cameras for application in security surveillance. For instance, in some situations, surveillance conditions require viewing at night under conditions of moonlight or starlight in a covert surveillance context. In such applications, IR LED illumination cameras to present some shortcomings. They become unsuitable. The only available alternative is to use LLL (Low- Light level intensified) CCD cameras. The cameras have attributes of high sensitivity levels in the order of 100 to 1000 times compared to most high performing solid-state cameras. The high sensitivity attribute for the LLL CCD camera is acquired through light amplification in a device situated between the CCD sensing device and the camera lens. Unfortunately, LLL CCD cameras are extremely expensive. They cost about 10 to 20 times higher than CCD cameras.

The surveillance cameras discussed so far require some illumination for operation, which means that they cannot operate in total darkness. Thermal imaging cameras resolve this shortcoming. Thermal imaging cameras deploy thermal sensor to provide a response to thermal energy in the order of 3-5 micrometers in wavelength (Kruegle, 2011, p.47). Targets including people, animals, vehicles, and other warm objects produce changes in thermal energy within the range of operation of the cameras. Another important attribute of CCTVs surveillance cameras is the degree of tilt. Tilt determines the angular range of the camera view. Panoramic 360 degrees camera provides the best range of angular views by permitting camera view of 360 degrees. Another important attribute of the cameras is that they can “digitally pan/tilt to anywhere in the scene and digitally zoom any scene area, have no moving parts such as no motors that can wear out, and permit multiple operators to view any part of the scene in real-time or at a later time”( Kruegle, 2011, p.48). Amid these advantages, Panoramic Cameras have high-resolution requirements. Shortcomings and advantages of different CCTV surveillance cameras present differing attributes, which determine the type of cameras chosen for a particular operation. The higher the visibility under no/or little light conditions, resolutions, tilt angles, higher image clarity, and higher field view, the higher the cost of the cameras.


Insecurity is a major issue that nations, organizations, and even individuals seeking to minimize. In this quest, several strategies are deployed including employing human security guards, police, and even building of perimeter walls and electric fences to minimize incidences of loss or damage of property. Since the 1950s, the use of surveillance cameras (CCTVs) became dominant in the security surveillance industry. The cameras have undergone processes of developments to constitute the current digital and Internet cameras with high visibility, high resolutions, and the ability to detect physical objects under the moonlight, starlight, or even no-light conditions such as thermal imaging cameras. Different types of cameras have different properties and the ability to detect risky situations within their places of installations. Such attributes affect the costs of the cameras; hence, the utmost decision on the type of camera selected for use in a given establishment. This paper discussed functionality, location considerations, camera configurations, and even the purposes for which CCTV cameras are installed to serve as some of the important factors, which determine the types of cameras installed in a facility and in public places. Although CCTVs are important in crime detection and preventions, this paper holds that they should not replace other physical security systems such as security guards and police.

Reference List

GOOLD, B., 2004. CCTV and Policing: Public Area Surveillance and Police Practices in Britain. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

HONESS, T., and CHARMAN, E., 1992. Closed Circuit Television in Public Places. Police Research Group: Crime Prevention Unit Series. London: Home Office.

HOOD, J., 2003. Closed Circuit Television Systems: A Failure in Risk Communication. Journal of Risk Research 6(3), 233-251.

KRUEGLE, H., 2011. CCTV Surveillance: Video Practices and Technology. Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann.

WARREN, A., and GILL, D., 2010. Good Practice Guide for Investigations. Warwickshire: The Security Institute.

WELSH, B., and FARRINGTON, P., 2004. Surveillance for Crime Prevention in Public Space: Results and Policy Choices in Britain and America. Criminology and Public Policy 3(3), 497-526.

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