Given the recent terrorist attacks, security cameras have taken on a whole new meaning in the 21st Century. Previously, the thought of security cameras recording and keeping a record of people’s activities were met with strong resistance as a harmful intrusion on our freedoms.
In the post 9/11 world we cry out for more protection, demanding our government do everything in its power to stop these madmen from hurting people, especially here in America. And security cameras have leaped into the forefront of that battle, recording the movements of suicide bombers and other terrorists, hopefully preventing them from wreaking havoc.
On June 7, 2005, there were terrorist attacks in London. Four separate locations were hit – three separate subway stations and one double-decker bus. As the airwaves filled with news of the attacks, one bit of information stood out. The investigation into who committed these horrific acts would involve checking the footage on 1800 security cameras around town. 1800 cameras! It turns out that London has the most pervasive security camera system in the world.
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Home Security Cameras
Think carefully before you run out to your local electronics supplier and purchase a home security camera system. Just as with terrorist protection and thievery protection systems, home systems require you to plan out your system before you go shopping. The simplest systems are set up at the front door so you can see who is standing there when the doorbell rings.
They provide the comfort that comes in viewing the person or persons who are knocking at your door before you open it and let them in. If necessary, there are two-way audio systems, as well as video, that allow you to ask the people questions, such as producing identification by holding up badges or identification cards to the cameras for your inspection.
So your first decision is, should I include two-way audio along with the camera at my front door? Next you would ask, should I have the camera connected to a recording device or is the simple ability to view people enough? One entrance, one system and already there are questions that need to be addressed. For the simplest of home security cameras you can purchase a kit that would include the features you need.
The next question you have to ask before you purchase a system is, do I want a home security camera at any other entrances or possible entrances to my home? There are systems that install a camera in your driveway or in your garage, wherever you normally park and exit from your car. Some of these offer motion detection on/off switches also connected to lighting systems so as soon as you drive up, the camera and lights all turn on simultaneously. You can be comforted by the thought that if anybody is lurking nearby to grab you or your car as you exit the vehicle, the automatic lighting system and visible camera will most likely scare them off the minute it turns on.
Another factor to consider before you purchase a home security camera system is the power source. Where is the nearest power source for the cameras, monitors and switches you’ll need for the system to operate properly? There are battery-operated systems, but the maintenance involved in keeping the batteries fresh can be time consuming. Locate your nearest power source and compare it to the location or locations you need for your cameras and other equipment and build from there.
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Wireless Security Cameras
If you need to partially conceal your cameras from view, wireless security cameras are the way to go. Locations such as banks use a combination of wireless and wired, visible and hidden cameras to intimidate potential robbers, but continue photographing them even if they disable the wired cameras. Las Vegas casinos do the same. Look around you the next time you enter a casino or a bank. There are cameras evident and these are for “publicity” purposes.
They are there to intimidate a potential robber or petty thief from doing anything, knowing that their actions are being recorded. The owners of these establishments want you to see these cameras and they want you to think twice about doing anything naughty in their places of business. Then there are the hidden cameras. Almost always wireless so they can be placed anywhere, they photograph through small holes in the walls or ceilings, or from behind specially designed ordinary devices you’d expect to find in the location. Wireless security cameras are the ones that provide information to the police about who may have committed some crime after they disabled the visible systems.
Wireless cameras can be battery operated. That is, they are used to monitor the activities of people for a limited amount of time. Their advantage is that they can be placed in a variety of easily concealed positions, much more so than a camera that requires a wire to be connected to both its power source and a recording device.
Lately, these cameras have been built into clocks, children’s toys and other common household devices and have been nicknamed “nanny-cams.” They came into more popular use to catch babysitters and nanny’s who watch over precious youngsters who may not be talking yet. Horrible abuse sometimes occurs when unbalanced adults are left in charge of toddlers who can’t speak.
Concerned parents started using these devices to record the actions of the adult in charge while they were gone. Then the couple could play back the tapes and see what went on in their absence. Some of these tapes were so outrageously awful in what they captured on videotape that they led to prosecution of the adult offender and oftentimes ended up on national tabloid TV shows. Since then they have become a built-in, cleverly concealed device that’s quite often found in homes where young children are being watched by hired help.
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Security Camera System
One camera does not a system make is the rule of thumb to remember when you consider what type of security camera system you need. A recent technological breakthrough that has been applied to home security systems is the CCTV system, or Closed Circuit Television system.
CCTV camera security systems were initially developed to monitor commercial properties and public places, but have been adapted to home security systems in recent years. These days, it’s more prevalent than any other type of security system that might function without a TV. The difference being that with CCTV camera security systems there are no wires between any number of cameras you might employ and the TV set or sets you might choose to view them from.
Essentially, you are a mini TV network, broadcasting the “show” from several different locations in and around your house or place of business to one or more TV sets, upon which you can see what the camera sees.
This equipment is so sophisticated, so advanced that the cameras, recording devices and TV sets can interface with other features of your security system and actually be activated by motion, entry or any other intrusion onto your property or into your house that you may require. Wealthy celebrities and other security conscious individuals have extensive CCTV camera security systems that monitor every entrance to their house and property possible, and will turn on lights, alarms and alert the police at the slightest irregularity.
For extremely security-conscious individuals, CCTV camera security systems provide additional features not available on other security systems. The most important of these is remote viewing. You can actually see what is going on in your home or business without having to be there. You could be anywhere in the world, on business, on vacation or just out for the evening around town and with your cell phone or a laptop computer or any internet browser, you can tap into your CCTV security camera system and see what’s going on your property, in your home just as if you were there. What a convenience! You can enjoy your time away from home, secure in the knowledge that everything is as it should be with a simple check in on a cell phone or lap top computer. For many people, this feature is the selling point that leads them to purchase a CCTV security camera system.
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Hidden Security Cameras
For businesses that have a large number of employees that handle sensitive information or valuable items; for banks who have to protect themselves against the very real threat of being robbed; for countries who are looking to protect themselves and their people against the possibility of terrorist attacks; and for parents who want to monitor what’s going on with the nanny or babysitter at home, hidden security cameras are the way to go. Whether you need to hide one camera, two or two hundred, there is a hidden security camera system that can accommodate you.
Many businesses opt for a combination of hidden cameras and visible cameras. The visible ones serve as a deterrent to would be thieves while the hidden ones can monitor the more sophisticated thieves in the event the visible ones are disabled. Banks, casinos and large businesses use a combination of the two types of security camera systems to achieve the maximum desired results.
When employees are stealing, the hidden camera system is the most successful at catching them in the act. Clever thieves will note the angle and ability of the visible cameras especially ones that pan back and forth around a room full of people. Cameras that do this leave blank spots in their field, several seconds perhaps where a particular area is not being photographed. A clever thief will time his nefarious activities to coincide with those blank spots to avoid detection. But if he doesn’t know where the camera is that’s watching him, if he can’t time out a blank spot in the coverage, then he’s more likely to get caught committing his dirty deed. That’s the purpose of the hidden camera.
The infamous “nanny-cam” has caught more than a few nasty nannies, who were ignoring the young children in their charge, or worse, abusing them. The tapes made the rounds of various news programs on TV and a new industry was born. Now there are wireless, battery operated cameras hidden in common household items like radios, and planters that an unsuspecting nanny would never find. As technology improves and electronic items get smaller and better, hidden security cameras will become more readily available than they are today.
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Outdoor Security Cameras
One of the most important considerations for outdoor security cameras is the power source. Quite often, building codes don’t require many outdoor, electrical connections, which means that if you require an outdoor security camera you’re going to have to deal with that situation. In most cases, there are power sources in the garage that can be utilized for this purpose with a simple bit of concealed wiring. However, if your home or apartment does not have a convenient power source, you may have to create one where you intend the camera equipment to be placed.
Once you’ve solved the power requirements for your outdoor security cameras, you have to do some research on the best equipment for the geographical area that you live in. A system may not function all year around, twenty-four hours a day without being designed especially for the changing weather.
An additional consideration for outside security cameras is the light source. All cameras require adequate light to properly photograph a subject and video cameras are no exception. This ability to use light is measured as a lux rating. The lower the lux rating of a camera, the less light it needs to deliver a useable image. If you intend to mount your camera in a spot with little or no available light you have to get the lowest lux rated camera you can find that will allow you to see the person in front of the camera.
If this is not possible you have to provide a light source either near or actually on the camera. Finally, if you are not able to provide additional light, you may want to consider infra-red cameras that can deliver a decent enough image in the absence of light.
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Fake Security Cameras
While this may seem silly to some people, fake security cameras, sometimes referred to as dummy security cameras, actually have helped to prevent many crimes. Mounted in high profile, totally visible locations, these cameras are not hooked up to anything, they mostly operate for a long time on batteries and sometimes have a few flashing lights or other obvious characteristics to make them look as if they are doing something.
Many a would-be robber has changed his or her mind about entering someplace illegally after spotting one of these dummy security cameras looking right at them. With today’s technology, an inexperienced thief really has no way to know whether or not he’s looking at a wireless, state of the art surveillance device or a fake security camera. Some of them actually pan back and forth, although these require more frequent battery changes.
Only sophisticated thieves can tell -- at a distance -- whether they are being observed by a real security camera.
Fake security cameras are especially effective in areas that you expect to be covered by security cameras. For instance, many of the cameras in subway stations around the world are fake security cameras and nobody can tell the difference. During hard times, when the crime rates inevitably rise and cities are strapped for cash, the ratio of fake cameras to real ones was about 2-to-1 in some metropolitan areas. Knowing that the fake cameras would be regarded as real, the fakes were sprinkled in among the real ones to provide an extra incentive for would-be robbers and thieves to practice their trade in another location. Except for the lack of recorded footage provided by the real cameras, dummy security cameras are almost as effective in reducing crime rates in subways as the real ones are.
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Remote Security Cameras
Used primarily in the beginning as a traffic-monitoring device, remote security cameras are becoming the weapon of choice in the war against terrorism and crime around the world. A trained technician can sit in a control booth and monitor cameras placed in many locations around the city and using his remote equipment, he can pan and tilt, turning the cameras at will to view an even larger area than would be possible with stationary security cameras.
The latest spy programs on TV use these cameras to monitor good guys and bad guys having clandestine meetings in downtown areas. They can pan and follow two people who are walking and talking and when they’ve reached the outermost edges of the camera’s field of vision, they merely switch to the next camera and pan and tilt all over again.
While it seems far-fetched and makes for interesting entertainment, these cameras do exist and can be used precisely for that purpose.
The uses these remote security cameras serve is two-fold. In the aftermath of a terrorist attack, like the recent events in the London subway system, those cameras could have noticed the packages containing the bombs used to blow up those trains. Then, the footage from other cameras could be used in reverse to see if the people responsible for leaving those explosive devices on the trains could be located.
Furthermore, these remote security cameras are being used more and more to watch the habits of people in crowded areas, subway stations, airports and others to try to stop a terrorist attack before it happens. If someone enters an airport with a backpack, a trained technician sitting in a control booth far from the actual place he’s watching could track this person’s movements throughout the entire airport; so if he leaves his bag or does something else suspicious, it would be noticed immediately and dealt with quickly. All without the person being watched ever knowing he’s being watched.
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Business Security Cameras
Businesses with employees to monitor were the largest purchaser of security cameras prior to the 9/11 attacks in New York City. Up until that time all kinds of businesses were interested in protecting themselves from employee theft of valuable items or even more valuable, sensitive information. Employees in businesses where theft of any kind was a problem were used to security measures in place all the time of which business security cameras where only a small facet of the total system.
Obviously, banks and other businesses with public exposure were used to having security cameras in place since their inception. But businesses without exposure to the public were getting into the game and hiring security companies to install, maintain and monitor state of the art surveillance systems to keep even the latest toy prototypes from being stolen out of research and development departments.
Especially active in purchasing business security cameras were Las Vegas casinos. Casinos had even more state-of-the-art business security camera systems in place behind the scenes, inside the counting rooms where the constant flow of cash was brought in by armed guards and then separated and counted by squads of personnel. Even a high roller table in a private casino doesn’t see the kind of action that flows through the counting rooms and that’s where the casinos invested heavily in business security cameras.
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