Tuning Up Your CCTV To Maximize Safety And Security

When do closed circuit television malfunctions occur? I’m sure you can guess, it is always at the point when you need it most. I can’t recall the number of instances when I had a cash shortage I needed to look for and when I attempted to pull video through the DVR the video was already dropped or the camera wasn’t functioning. I remember having to look for an image of a suspect in a shoplifting incident and the picture was too grainy to be of any use due to a dirty camera lens or dome. One slightly embarrassing situation that stands out in my mind involved robberies that were taking place behind our store. I had developed a great working relationship with our local police department and they knew the quality of our camera system. Investigators came to me seeking assistance with outdoor camera footage to try to identify the criminals conducting the robberies. I pulled up video of the date and time in question and much to my chagrin the camera had a great shot of the ground directly underneath it. A power surge had impacted the programming of the pan/tilt/zoom (PTZ) camera and placed it in a default position. I had not noticed the problem in a timely fashion and could not recall how long it was before I did catch the issue. The good news was I was able to re-program the camera and eventually we did provide footage of an incident a little later that led to an arrest.

     It is important to do a spring cleaning of your Loss Prevention tools, and especially a tune up of your closed circuit television (cctv) equipment. As a Loss Prevention Manager for a big box retailer, each spring we would have what we referred to as a bounce back checklist. The checklist covered a number of housekeeping items, including cleaning and checking CCTV components. Doing so helped to ensure we were getting maximum video retention, quality camera pictures, clear public view monitor images and we would identify equipment needing repairs.

     I used to train my team to look at CCTV equipment from the eye of a shoplifter. If there is a public view monitor it is supposed to be a deterrent to crime. When the bad guys see their picture on a monitor the idea is that they will be less inclined to do what they intended whether it is shoplifting, stealing purses or robbing the business. I would emphasize that a filthy monitor or poor quality picture indicated to the bad guys that the store didn’t take Loss Prevention seriously and diminished the deterrence value.

     CCTV equipment maintenance is not just for stores with a Loss Prevention Department. Many stores do not have a security department but there is equipment that is a precaution against crime. Often a camera system with a digital video recorder, computer and or multiplexer is housed in a small office recording activity. It can be easy to forget about it if there is not someone assigned to check on it daily. Sometimes it is neglected until a robbery takes place or money is missing from a register and then a manager goes to review footage and finds the system is not functioning. Using a spring checklist helps managers ensure equipment will be functioning when it is needed.

      So what should be included in a cctv tune-up checklist?

  • Dust digital video recorders, keyboards, computers and multiplexers with canned air and good quality dusters
  • Check all connections and ensure nothing has come loose and no wires are frayed
  • If equipment is maintained in a small office, ensure the room is properly cooled
  • Review each camera and picture, is it positioned to see what you need it to see?
  • Clean every camera lens
  • Wipe down all camera domes (even dummy domes)
  • Clean Public View Monitors. If a monitor has a burned picture, replace it. Look at it during different hours of the day is there a time when too much glare hits it? If so, you may want to try repositioning it.
  • Check your video retention. If you aren’t getting at least 30 days follow up with your vendor to see about clearing space or optimizing recording. You may be able to set recording zones or sensors that will only record when movement in an area happens.

No one wants to think about a robbery, employee theft or shoplifting taking place in their store but it is something you have to be prepared for. Take care of your cctv by tuning it up so that IF the time comes when you need it you will have the video necessary to help police in their investigation to put the criminals away.