With the surveillance camera aimed down along the length of his driveway, a fed up home owner determined to put a face to his nightly nemesis, the notorious lawn ornament vandal, set a trap by posing a brand new garden gnome out in the open with the cameras rolling. Days passed and the gnome remained untouched; apparently the cameras were acting as a deterrence. A week later, his doorbell rang at 5 am; there was a ruckus outside, and instead of the pre-dawn pink that usually cut its way through the blinds at that hour, a menacing red light blazed in its place. Cinching his bath-robe, he could hear police radios squawking right outside his door. There was a home invasion across the street and the cops wanted to talk to him. They told him his camera might yield possible clues.
This happens all of the time; it’s the law of unintended consequences. In the case of the missing girl from Arizona, Isabel Mercedes, police made an auspicious discovery-a surveillance camera, 75 feet away and aimed directly at the missing girl’s home.
Cobbled together from various store fronts and traffic cams, police in N.Y. were able to definitively piece together the last known whereabouts of slain grad student, Imette St. Guillen.
And while an individual homeowner or business operator installs a surveillance system to secure their own personal possessions and property as its chief aim, the unanticipated role surveillance cameras play in documenting the events outside its intended uses, seem to be having a tremendous impact in securing the safety and welfare of neighborhoods, communities, and society as a whole.
When purchasing a surveillance system, the average consumer will encounter a whole range of outcomes that were impossible to anticipate. “Unless a consumer is reading this, there isn’t any amount of online research that will blatantly tell a customer the drawbacks of going it alone; especially if the chief aim of all of the material they are researching online is to sell them a product,” says Tom, owner of CCTV Services Inc. “We sell products, but surveillance services are our specialty.”
Spouting off a litany of common pitfalls the average consumer faces when attempting to purchase a surveillance system, Tom expertly boils it all down, “A customer needs a surveillance system, and right away they’re thinking of buying a few cameras and a recorder on-line. Maybe Costco’s running a sale on equipment, and a friend or relative says they can install it on the cheap.” This is where Tom’s expertise comes into play, “Firstly, not all equipment is created equal. Many DVR’s lack functionality, few are user friendly, and none are supported by an actual verifiable source. Once it gets used up, and burns out or breaks, it becomes a disposable DVR.” Tom says that not knowing what you don’t know makes it unlikely for anyone to get the best long term result, “Deciding what to buy for your exact application without actual expert assistance, is a crap shoot at best.”
Secondly, the equipment needs to be functional and reliable for years, and buying it on-line from some faceless retail distributor is not even going to come close to making that a reality. What about building codes? Is your local handy-man licensed? Does that friend or relative installing it have the computer expertise needed for complex networking to devices and other PC’s? These are just some of the issues the novice consumer will encounter during the course of their installation.
Hypothetically, let’s say police are conducting an investigation into a five week old missing person’s case. From bank records, investigators pin-point the missing person’s last known whereabouts to an ATM located across the street from your business. Cops notice that one of your surveillance cameras is trained directly on the ATM, and want to see the data on the DVR. “Without expertise, a consumer is going to need very specific product knowledge to search for, off load, and archive video data,” says Tom. If you bought the DVR on E-Bay, chances are that data from a month ago is gone.
As with all electronics, future support and services are imperative in maintaining the integrity of a system, and like all electronics, when technology renders certain components of it obsolete, a business like Costco doesn’t offer upgrades. Fortunately, CCTV Services Inc. does.
“Always insist on being sold based on the verifiability of what you are being told before spending your money on a CCTV solution,” warns Tom. Many installers are far too preoccupied with landing the initial sale, and too often, do not have the customer’s long term interests in mind. As a rule of thumb, Tom suggests that equipment should never be purchased from one party and installed by another; or else, “failure is assured.”
“What people really want,” says Tom, “is not the cheapest solution, but the one that offers the best value for their money.” Search us out on-line, read our customer testimonials, verify that we are who we say we are, “Determining the reputation of a provider should be a main focus for the consumer, and like a wise national leader once said, “Trust, but verify.”