As you can see from the above video, criminals are an an ugly lot. They’re so unpleasant to look at that they don’t want to offend anyone else with their horrible looks and so often wear their hoodies done up as tightly as possible, dodge mirrors and in all cases avoid CCTV cameras like the plague.
CCTV is one of the best lines of investigation we as police have and one of the first questions an officer is likely to ask when attending an incident is ‘are there any cameras covering the area?’. Good quality footage is very hard to argue against and when shown images of their own faces during interview, even the slowest burglar is likely to recognise that denial of the offence is futile.
Because CCTV is so useful to us in solving crimes, should you consider a system for your home and if the answer is yes (see the below paragraph) then what’s the best advice for installing cameras and are there any legal considerations to take into account?
As you may have guessed, my advice would be that investing in a good CCTV system is one of the best steps you can take to protect your home from opportunistic miscreants. There are two main advantages – one, that footage of an offender is invaluable in the course of an investigation and two, that merely having visible cameras provides a powerful deterrent.
When I say ‘invest’, CCTV needn’t be expensive with a search on the site of a popular online retailer named after a large South American rainforest revealing that systems are available for as little as £60. Dummy cameras are even less.
The range of systems in mind, it’s always best to go for the highest specification kit in your price bracket as when it comes to CCTV footage the most important consideration is image quality. We often view recordings on lower end systems in which the offenders appear like spooky, misty ghosts who pop up in one frame and then are gone not even allowing us to take a clothing description. This is obviously little help to us.
Many systems offer capabilities such as night vision and motion sensors, record onto a hard drive and can be played back through a television. If you’re keen on your gadgets, some even can be connected to the internet meaning that you can access your CCTV from anywhere in the world and view footage live on a computer or smart phone.
As for where you position the cameras, this is a choice limited by how many cameras you have at your disposal however if you only have one or two I’d be tempted to prioritise the rear of your property as many break ins occur with offenders gaining entry through rear or side facing windows and doors.
How well overlooked your house is will make a difference to where you might want to position your cameras with the idea being that criminals are going to be attracted to the entry points not overlooked and so this is where your cameras are best placed. If you have a front drive and particularly if you have some nice motors sitting on said drive, a camera covering your cars is always a good bet too.
With the system installed and the cameras recording the next thing you’ll need to do is to make sure that you know how to access the footage itself. You may be surprised at how often, both in private houses and shops, people will have excellent CCTV but no idea how to view it and even less knowledge of how to burn a copy to a disc.
As it seems to be an unwritten law that every CCTV system must run on different software and has to record in a different format, it’s really helpful to us that the person with the cameras knows how it works and has some discs available to make us a copy of the footage.
The other important thing is that the time is right on your time stamp. I’ve lost track of how often I’ve struggled to work out what time frame we need to be reviewing when the system is set incorrectly. It’s usually the case of “Well, your camera is one hour and forty two minutes fast, that clock over there is six hours and eight minutes slow and with the clocks going back an hour at 02:00 last night I think we need to set the date for around about 17:59 on 03/06/1996 and watch from there” – confusing!
What about the law though? Are CCTV cameras installed at home covered by any legislation and could you get into trouble by installing cameras?
First of all, whilst businesses have to comply with the principles of the Data Protection Act the same does not apply to people using CCTV for purely ‘domestic purposes’ at home. This means you don’t have to put up signs warning others that you’re using cameras and don’t – unless you really want to – have to assign someone to be the ‘data controller’ or ‘data king’. It also means there’s not an issue if your camera covers part of a public street.
What you do need to do though is to bare in mind that your neighbours have a right to privacy and so you can’t infringe on that right by, for example, directing a camera right at their house. This could be seen as an violation of their right to privacy under the Human Rights Act and potentially could also form the basis of a harassment complaint.
The other legal consideration – civil this time – is whether you need planning permission for your cameras. This mainly applies to any of you reading this blog from inside a castle or stately home. Planning permission is only something you’re likely to need if you live in a listed building or a conservation area so if you do, check with your council before sorting out camera coverage for your moat.
CCTV regularly forms an important part of the case against all sorts of criminal activities and so can be an invaluable weapon in both the prevention, and detection, of crime.
Setting yourself up with a decent system is a sure step to ensuring that the criminals’ ugly faces end up where they belong – on film and then behind bars.