“Should we install cameras? I mean, do they make that much of a difference?”
It doesn’t happen very often but on occasion, owners and managers of Nightlife establishment ask me for my opinion on the installation and use of CCTV cameras.
Listen, if you are still working out of the paradigm that CCTV use in a business can do more harm than good, you need to seriously re-evaluate your position. There is no reason why any business should be working without the benefit of CCTV coverage in this day and age. And with a variety of low-cost and technological levels to work with, it just makes sense for your bar or nightclub.
While I won’t go into detail on types of cameras, placement, or installation in this post, I will be addressing some of the arguments that have been put forth, both Pro and Con, for the use of CCTV cameras. For the record, I am very much for the use of CCTV and highly recommend that you look into purchasing a system for your establishment.
Cameras as a deterrent
There have been a number of articles and studies done on the efficacy of CCTV use in both Public and Private Domains. These studies show a mixed result when it comes to using only CCTV as a deterrent. However, when using CCTV in addition to physical security (guards) and other systems (alarms/lighting), there is a significant deterrent factor.
In other words: cameras work best in conjunction with other systems. Bad guys and girls don’t want to be caught in the act, period. The addition of other “counter-measures” to further impede bad behavior if/should the perpetrator defeat the CCTV system is an added layer of protection. And more than likely, the added layer of protection is enough to frustrate or impede extra attempts by the bad guys to do bad things.
Cameras as monitoring devices
Knowing that there are a number of cameras monitoring their actions will – at the very least – give the would-be criminals pause to think. Remember, the bad guys can be on your Staff! Bartenders giving away drinks, doormen pocketing cover charges, and even hostesses dealing drugs. These things happen and what better way to catch them than on camera? With today’s technology, you can literally place your cameras ANYWHERE. Inside cash registers, on shelves, in plants, behind photo frames…ANYWHERE. One benefit of smaller, hidden cameras is that people aren’t feeling like they are being “surveilled”, which is one of the arguments that people have against CCTV use.
Cameras as evidence-gathering devices
Deterrence and monitoring capabilities are wonderful but the main goals of surveillance are to catch someone in the act and prevent further action or to use the footage as evidence later. The high-quality of today’s systems is incredibly beneficial when it comes to catching minor details that one would not have noticed in cameras of the past. Add sound to the mix and the value of the footage goes up exponentially.
Events unfold in real time on CCTV footage and that footage can be slowed or even free-framed if necessary to gather details. Witness testimony is sometimes flawed and individuals may forget or confuse details. And while Incident Reports are helpful, even they can miss important moments that occurred prior to or during an event. Cameras only miss what they can’t see. Though footage may be disputed but use of said footage along with eyewitness testimony and Incident Reports is exponentially beneficial.
Cameras as mediators
I’ve heard about issues with management behavior from employees. I’ve heard complaints about management from employees. And I’ve heard A LOT of complaint from patrons about employees. You know what is amazingly helpful in settling disputes about job performance, customer service, or employee mistreatment? CCTV footage.
Digital video can help to resolve any number of claims that would be unverifiable in any other format. It can be very hard to argue a case when the CCTV footage shows someone in the act, especially if that footage is time and date stamped!
I know that there are still folks out there who will argue against the use of CCTV and they are well within their rights. I know many business owners who refuse to use cameras. The reasons are varied but the main arguments against CCTV in businesses usually come down to privacy concerns, use of evidence, and abuse of the system.
To begin with, there is not much of an expectation of privacy in most workplaces. In fact, you probably have fewer privacy rights at work than you do while not at work. As a business owner or manager, you are well within your rights to film your employees and patrons. Period. The only exception being the placement of cameras in bathrooms or dressing rooms. And even that can be contingent upon what state you are in. As for your patrons, they generally forfeit their rights as long as you notify them of the CCTV usage.
“They’ll get caught doing bad things”
More than a few owners have indicated to me that their reticence in installing CCTV systems was based on the fear of their staffers doing something wrong and getting in trouble. For one, no one is perfect, so camera or not…they’re going to make mistakes. If the staff in your establishment is making you so nervous that you are worried they are going to get caught doing something bad, you need to seriously consider hiring a new staff. IF you are taking the time to mentor, train, supervise, and manage your staff, mistakes shouldn’t be an issue. Again, the camera footage can help to point out minor errors and be used as an instructional or training tool.
Abusing the footage
Employees are often worried that whatever they do on video will be used against them or that the footage will be abused in some way. While there have been cases of illegal filming or of footage being used for nefarious purposes, they are far and few between. You can allay your employees’ fears by letting them know that yes, they are on camera but that the footage is under lock and key and would only be used or distributed if absolutely necessary.
With any system, there is the possibility of abuse. But if you and your management are acting in the best interests of your establishment, patrons, and staff, the benefits of CCTV use far outweigh the perceived downside. Bad people will be less likely to try stupid things, your staff will know that they can rely on the surveillance to catch trouble, and you can rest assured in the fact that there is always a tangible backup should bad things happen. By using cameras, security staff, and a variety of alarm systems, you continue to make your establishment safe, secure, and – hopefully – as liability-free as possible.