What Does It Take to Catch Criminals Wearing Masks?

Posted by Eric Nauta on April 15, 2021

Since the pandemic, a joke has been going around about how people never dreamed they'd be going into a bank wearing a mask and asking the teller for money. All joking aside, it brings up an important concern about masks. Many of us can recognize family and friends when they have their masks on, but what about acquaintances or strangers?

With mask-wearing becoming the norm, you can't tell the difference between someone who is suspicious and a customer. As if wearing masks isn't enough, criminals have grown smarter. They find ways to quickly go in and out of a building without being caught.

Unfortunately, the pandemic has driven more people to steal.

The Pandemic's Effect on Crime

An unfortunate outcome of the pandemic is that many people have lost their jobs. They can't make rent or buy food. Although some apartment property managers may allow residents to defer their rent, it piles up every month. They fall behind and don't know how they will ever catch up. It's widely known that when unemployment climbs, crime also climbs. Desperation makes people do desperate things they normally wouldn't do.

A Business.org study reveals that 40 percent of small-business owners report that since the start of the pandemic shoplifting has gone up. It’s not just the customers who steal. A third of the thefts are committed by employees.

Almost 26 million American adults, about 1 in 8, say they sometimes or often did not have enough food to eat. American hunger has hit new highs according to The Census Bureau survey data report in The Washington Post.

The pandemic has forced companies to change how they operate. For some, this means having an empty or mostly empty office building. This puts these buildings at risk for crime.

Retailers don't have this problem. However, they do have to revise their operations to support social distancing, require people to wear masks, add hand sanitizer stations, and install clear panels at customer service desks and cashier stations. Some stores track the number of people in the building to prevent crowding.

With COVID-19 affecting prison populations, prisons are releasing non-violent offenders to decrease prison crowding. Some of these prisoners are thieves who go back to their old ways. To make matters more difficult for businesses, the pandemic has changed law enforcement's focus. Prison overcrowding affects how law enforcement functions.

For instance, some police officers have been given the directive to concentrate more on violent offenses and less on non-violent crimes. Theft falls in the latter. Of course, this does not mean thieves are getting away with crimes. Rather, it means law enforcement has shifted its priorities and the locations they observe.

So, what are businesses supposed to do, especially with mask-wearing being the norm? Here are three options to help you catch criminals sporting masks.

Use Video Verification to Increase Police Response Time

Alarm verification is the process of confirming whether the alarm is real or false. It can be done by phone or video. Whenever an alarm goes off, the security company calls the business. If no one answers the phone, then the security company calls the next number on the contact list.

Are false alarms really that big of a problem? Yes. It's a big problem.

The high price of false alarms

According to Arizona State University Center for Problem-Oriented Policing (COPS), between 94 to 98 percent of alarms are false. It also states that law enforcement loses 20 minutes of time when they respond to a false alarm.

Emergency personnel and businesses pay a high price for false alarms. Instead of going to actual alarms, police head toward false alarms. They will not know that it is a false alarm until they arrive on the scene.

The cost of false alarms can be high for businesses, police departments, and fire departments. It turns out false alarms cost police departments up to 6.5 million personnel hours and $600 million in a year per data from the International Association of Chiefs of Police report referenced in a GetSafe article.

The price businesses pay for a false alarm depends on the location. Some U.S. cities do not charge for the first false alarm. However, they will charge for any that follow. The price tends to go up with each incident.

As for Canada, a REMI article says condos and apartments pay almost $1,400 per dispatch that turns out to be a false alarm. Smaller buildings could pay roughly $500 for every responding vehicle that shows up.

Does alarm verification work?

Alarm verification helps prevent wasting first responders' time and businesses paying penalties. ASU's COPS analyzed cities with an ordinance requiring alarm companies to verify an alarm by phone or video camera. The report found that cities that required verification saw their false alarms drop by an impressive 90 percent!

Requiring alarm verification had a huge impact on a city in Utah.

"By significantly reducing the number of calls to which officers needed to respond, the Salt Lake City Police Department gained an equivalent of five full-time officers, decreased the workload of call-takers and dispatchers, and decreased the response time to other calls for service," Rana Sampson writes.

Sampson says these three things are effective for decreasing false alarms:

  • Require verification before contacting first responders.
  • Charge fees for false alarms.
  • Respond only if they come from a building via mobile personal alarms like panic buttons.

While phone verification works, video surveillance has an advantage. Alarms can go off after hours when no one is on the company's property. The security company will call the people on the company's contact list. However, no one will know if it's a false alarm or not.

There's a better way to confirm this without anyone being on the property. Instead of burglar alarms, the company uses video surveillance.

Invest in Video Surveillance with Artificial Intelligence

Video surveillance with artificial intelligence maximizes security. Unlike burglar alarm systems, it's a proactive security solution. Video cameras have the ability to catch a crime before it happens.

Incorporating AI in video analytics involves programming many different scenarios into the system. The video surveillance's AI analyzes what it views on the video. As soon as it finds a match to one of the scenarios, the system informs the on-call monitoring operator. This is the part that gives video analytics its intelligence.

How AI works with video surveillance?

One scenario could be spotting people after business hours. As soon as the AI sees a person approaching the property, it warns the trained monitoring operator working the current shift. The operator analyzes the video and acts as needed.

Throughout all this, the operator is not on the business property. The person watches the scene in a safe location away from the site. How the operator responds depends on the scenario. One possibility is to talk to the trespasser on the two-way speaker system. If the warning does not stop the intruder, the operator will call law enforcement and stay on the line for as long as needed.

As this is happening, the operator can continue to follow the suspect. The police tend to arrive before the trespasser gets away. This is what makes video surveillance a proactive security solution. It can deter crime when the sight of video cameras or the speaker warning system scares off the suspect. It helps prevent damage because law enforcement often arrives before the person gets away.

The monitoring operator's role

Video cameras can't do the job as well without AI or human operators. If no AI or people watch the cameras, emergency personnel will receive a call every time something trips the alarms. A lot of things can set off the cameras including flying debris, shopping bags, and wild animals.

When you work with a video surveillance company that has a partnership with law enforcement, you benefit from faster response times. The police typically put a higher priority on the video surveillance company's calls. They know the alarm is real especially when it involves video verification. Here's what one security writer has to say about this.

"Video verification of crimes is critical, for another important reason: traditional alarms typically receive a 'Priority 3' response from law-enforcement agencies; that is, a low priority response (which could mean no response at all)," writes Jorge Perdomo in Security Today. "Conversely, an alarm accompanied by video verification will receive a 'Priority 1' response, meaning that officers will respond much more quickly."

Catch Masked Bandits Using Video Verification and Video Surveillance with AI

Some companies only have video cameras posted inside the building. To maximize video surveillance and video verification means placing video cameras outside the building. This allows the cameras to see someone approaching the building.

Besides, a lot of crime takes place in parking lots and you want to ensure people's safety there as well. A parking lot victim can hold the company liable for whatever happens. With video surveillance, you protect your business from liability lawsuits because you will have recorded proof of what happened.

What's more is that artificial intelligence is always learning from the monitoring operator's feedback. The AI grows more accurate with every input it receives. The pairing of artificial and human intelligence can help eliminate false alarms.

Video surveillance with built-in artificial intelligence and video verification can help speed police response. They are more likely to arrive on the scene before the masked bandit escapes.

Innovative security solutions from Stealth Monitoring include video surveillance with integrated analytics and video verification. The company also has partnerships with local police departments all across North America. Here's a case study of how video surveillance helps save money and deter crime. To get a security solution that matches your requirements and budget, contact us.

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