Do I Want Video Surveillance or Security Guards for My Commercial and Multifamily Residential Property?

Posted by Chris O' Rourke on February 11, 2020

Sometimes you see security guards. Sometimes you don't. Yet, you can't miss a camera when you're on a site with a video surveillance system. If something should happen inside a retail store, will security guards or video surveillance cameras catch the activity first?

It all depends.

How Security Guards Respond to Suspicious Activity

Security guards cannot be on the entire premises at any given time. If they happen to be patrolling the right part of the property, they may stop what's happening. However, the suspect may see the security guards patrolling the area. If so, the suspect will hold off until the security guards are far out of sight.

If the security guards see what's happening, there's no guarantee they will respond appropriately for the situation. Nowadays, many companies tell their employees not to chase after criminals. It can be an insurance liability. It can put people in danger. Besides, many security guards have been arrested.

Here are a few cases when that happened. Good Morning Maryland reports on a story in which a shoplifter drowned after security guards chased him. It has resulted in a lawsuit.

A Dallas Morning News article tells about a security guard who killed a shoplifter and ended up in jail. In Omaha, police arrested a security guard on suspicion of making terroristic threats when going after suspected shoplifters.

Security guards don't receive anywhere close to the kind of training law enforcement officers do. It's easy for them to make mistakes. Especially when they fear for their lives. Humanity's fight-or-flight response has a way of taking over, and it does not always make the right decision. That's why law enforcement undergoes rigorous training to overcome that.

How Video Surveillance Responds to Suspicious Activity

Video surveillance, on the other hand, relies on a combination of analytics and human intelligence. When something happens, a video surveillance system sends an alert. A trained security operator checks the activity.

One thing to note. This security operator is not on the property. Rather, the operator is located offsite in a safe place away from suspicious activity. Since the operator's life isn't in danger, the fight-or-flight response never comes into play. They react correctly and safely.

The security operator's response depends on suspicious activity. One option is to issue a warning through the audio speaker. Another is to call the local law enforcement while tracking the suspect's movements. The operator stays on the line with the emergency personnel for as long as needed.

A Quora discussion on shoplifting and getting caught reveals eye-opening information. One of the posters is someone who had been indicted for shoplifting two years after it happened. How? Video cameras, social media, and physical evidence.

If you read the discussion that follows, video surveillance comes up often. Commenters say it has no blind spots. The technology is sophisticated in catching and identifying suspects. Video surveillance cameras have 360-degree lenses. It allows them to follow the action in every direction.

A Fox6Now news story reports on the theft of more than $30,000 worth of merchandise. The video shows the suspects grabbing and leaving with that much merchandise in just 30 to 60 seconds.

In the initial story, the police ask for help in identifying the nine suspects. The story includes photos and a video of the shoplifting in action. A follow-up on Fox6Now reveals three of the suspects have been charged and indicted.

It's possible for employees to discover shoplifting later during inventory. Fortunately, footage from the video surveillance cameras shows what happened and who did it.

The use of security guards and video surveillance yields very different results. With video surveillance, no one is at risk. With live monitoring, it’s possible to capture the suspect during the act.

The Problems with Using Security Guards

The biggest problem with security guards is cost. The cost multiplies with each additional security guard you hire. This pertains to full-time employees and contractors. Their hourly rate is somewhere between $10 and $24. You also may need insurance coverage.

The second is their unpredictability. You don't know how they will respond. They don't receive the meticulous training that police officers do. The only way to determine how they react is when something happens. There are too many variables that could happen. You can't test them all.

Becoming a licensed security guard does not require firearms training in 15 states. Most states recommend security guards receive:

  • Pre-assignment training: 8 hours
  • On-the-job training: 8 hours
  • Annual training: 8 hours

Is that enough for peace of mind? Do you think that's enough to prepare them for every scenario? It's nearly impossible to recreate real situations. They don't feel their lives are at risk while working through training scenarios.

Third, the possibility of human error is great since security guards are a liability. A CNN and the Center for Investigative Reporting study has discovered that many security guards have a criminal history. The industry has a high turnover. It's so high that 31 states don't require background checks. They just don't have the time and resources. Of those that do background checks, they're not always thorough.

Do a search for news stories about security guards. You'll find many in which they've killed people and get indicted. Here are three to give you an idea:

Fourth, they dress like a police officer. This creates a false sense of security. The reality is that they have little authority. Their presence alone can be a deterrent. Again, they cannot be everywhere on the property. Criminals know when security guards are out of sight and take advantage of that.

Advantages of Using Video Surveillance

When you compare the numbers for security guards and video surveillance, it's an easy decision. For example, a retail center had 24/7 security guards. The price tag? $14,000 a month or $168,000 per year. The cost proved to be too much. Management needed another retail security solution.

The managers decided to install video surveillance. It cost $35,000 for the equipment plus a recurring cost of $2,000 per month for monitoring. Do a little math. Compared to security guards, a video surveillance system saves $8,000 over a four-month period.

One year of video surveillance complete with equipment and monitoring can be up to 60 percent less than the cost of security guards.

Video surveillance cameras record everything. The footage provides the evidence you need. Often, suspects are captured before leaving the site. When they get out fast, the recordings can help catch suspects.

You don't have an element of unpredictability and human error like with security guards. The trained security operators watching the cameras are in a remote location away from the property. Their lives are never in danger.

The only way video surveillance creates a false sense of security is when a company posts the cameras, and no one watches them. This can turn into a liability issue. Done right, video surveillance can decrease liability. It can also potentially lower your liability insurance premiums.

Video surveillance delivers the fastest ROI for security. It can maximize property coverage.

Finding the Right Video Surveillance Vendor

It's possible to do video surveillance the wrong way. For one, it can drive up costs. A vendor may place more cameras than necessary. The more cameras you have, the higher the cost. An experienced security consultant knows how to strategically place cameras to maximize coverage.

Done wrong, video surveillance can decrease effectiveness. What good is video surveillance if you can't make out faces? Or any other identifying information. Even in today's day and age, there are still video surveillance cameras that don't have a high enough resolution. A company like Stealth Monitoring uses high-resolution cameras that can even read license plates.

Stealth also has thermal imaging cameras. These have the ability to see in complete darkness. Thermal imaging cameras work in extreme weather conditions and can reduce false positives. Get the thermal cameras white paper to learn more.

Technology isn’t perfect. That's why it's important to ask about system health checks. It ensures the video surveillance system stays up and running. You don't want it to stop working only to have a crime happen and no recording of it.

The system health check optimizes performance by analyzing the cameras, hard drives, and other equipment. It identifies problems related to power, wireless, Internet, and camera outages.

Here are some other security services that you may want to explore:

  • Consulting and advisory services: Develop a solution based on requirements.
  • Video review: Gather evidence by searching through hours of footage.
  • Remote maintenance: Find and repair technical problems remotely.
  • IT services for remote support: Request IT staff support 24/7.
  • Management reporting: Receive reports with results of video surveillance.

To help you choose the right video surveillance vendor, use this list of questions. If you'd like to learn more, explore this website and check out videos catching criminals in action. For more information about remote video surveillance and business security solutions, please contact us.

Posted in: Crime Prevention, Video Security Systems, Security Guards & Savings, Video Monitoring