Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid

One of my favourite broadcasters, the BBC’s somewhat maverick Danny Baker (@prodnose), has a phrase about the modern media – ‘if you’re not afraid, we’re not doing our job’.

So it was with great interest that I saw a headline in the London Evening Standard –

Half of households ‘make themselves burglary targets’ by failing to invest in CCTV

Wow! Really? Half the country should be rushing out now and buying CCTV else we are going to be prey to a guy in striped jersey and carrying a bag with SWAG written on it. We really should be panicking shouldn’t we?

Surveillance warning

A typical scene in suburbia ?

If you take the trouble to navigate past the hyperbole you will see that the article (click here) has quotes from a low-cost reseller of electronic equipment during what is coincidently National Home Security Month (something I think they also originate).

Is this type of sales through fear really that responsible? My experience is really not that positive when it comes to domestic CCTV systems. Firstly they tend to be installed by the homeowner and cameras are possibly not located in ideal locations for image capture. A camera located high is going to unobtrusive, yes but it will also only capture the top of someone’s head – not ideal in a police line up. I often think after watching crime reconstruction TV shows that there is one guy in a grey hooded top responsible for 99% of all offences in the UK. The amount of cameras is also a problem to cover even a modest house. Do you really want eight cameras around your house? It looks like you have something good inside already. Then there’s the garage. You need another one in the garage surely? The shed? Burglars now commonly steal tools from sheds to gain entry into houses. I think this is due to lack of investment in their own tools or a possibly a manual handling health and safety issue. So we are up to ten now. Getting a bit more expensive all of a sudden and have you considered the cable and power on this system?

Anyway, you have made the trip to shop now and are home with your nice box of comfort. Your house is safe. You spend a couple of hours (ahem) installing your cameras and you can now sleep well. What a relief, you are no longer the one in two that needs CCTV – you have it.

It will be really disappointing then when there is an incident on your property and you skip to your CCTV system to see the black and white image of a faceless person in hood damaging your car or making off down the road with your bike. You have now lost your bike and a few hundred quid on a CCTV system. But that is the sad reality of most CCTV systems installed at home. Either due to image quality, poor camera location, shrewd criminals or just bad luck it is unlikely you will capture evidence worthy of the word. Or lets say you do get lucky and the criminal is inept enough to show their face on camera. Can you really expect the full force of the law to be put into action over the crushing of your daffodils? Petty crime is sadly not a priority for police forces, even ones with a nice image of spotty youth. You will be even more disappointed if read proposed sentencing guidelines currently under consultation (see Daily Telegraph article here). Worst case, someone breaks into your house. Everyone’s nightmare. So you capture the image of them getting in. Have you locked away the DVR in a safe place? If not then you can add that to your list of missing items.

Me writing a piece on the ineffective nature of CCTV might seem a little hypocritical for someone who spends their working life selling the stuff. Well sadly domestic CCTV is largely ineffective when compared to more appropriate security measures for a home. Lights are a great deterrent. Fitting high-quality door locks is a given. Securing your garage and shed is an essential. Speaking to local Crime Prevention Officer is still a great option. If you are still worried and need to fit cameras all around your house to feel safe then make sure you check it is working and can capture what COULD happen.

I just can’t help being cynical thinking that 13.2 million households fall into that category.