How To Test Vandal Resistance?

Many of you enjoyed the Samsung fragile camera post (well, not the Samsung marketing department but...)

One of you raised the question of IPVM doing vandal resistance tests. I think that would be interesting to do. The question becomes what's the best way to do it. There are a lot of models and a lot of ways to strike a camera.

There's the 'scientific' way of free-falling a weight on a camera but the downside is that it's hard to know how to map that to real world attacks (bat, stick, hammer, hand, etc.).

Formal test:

Field test:

Some questions:

  • What cameras to test? There's hundreds of models claimed to be vandal resistant with most not mentioning any details or IK levels. Even if they do, can we trust it?
  • What tools / attacks should we use? Do we keep on hitting it in the same way until it breaks? If it does not break, can we try another attack method or does the first one impact the structural integrity, making the second test skewed?
  • How do we do this without spending tens of thousands of dollars? Since we will be breaking cameras probably very quickly, this could really get expensive and not prove that much.
  • Is there certain construction techniques or material choices that would likely drive / dictate performance?

Not sure you could get the personnel, but wouldn't it be cool to ask a former criminal who has previously been convicted (arrested?) of vandalizing cameras to actually do the vandalizing on a variety of vandal-resistant cameras?

Given that any meaningful real test must have repeatability of a measurable applied force on given point I suspect that the pictured field test is not your first choice. The formal test appears to only test for impact applied on the central axis of the dome, is that the weakest point?

I disagree that a test is not 'meaningful' unless it meets your criteria. I don't see 'formal' tests like free falling a weight on the top of a dome to be that meaningful because it represents something that literally never happens in the real world. I can repeat it all I want but that will not make it realistic.

As for the central axis of the dome, I am not sure if it's the weakest point. It might not actually be but it is certainly the easiest to run 'repeatable' tests.

I agree that the formal test is not realistic. My choice would be a can of black spray paint. I am perplexed as to what sort of test report you would generate from results that did not include a force measurement, indicate where the force was applied and were not repeatable. What would the test report look like?

We can certainly do spray paint though that's more obscuring than destroying (as hitting a camera would do). Indeed, spray paint is an easy one for us to do. We can do that.

As for a 'non formal' test, it would be getting a 'normal' hammer from Home Depot and swinging it at a camera mounted on a ceiling. Of course, there's the issue of how much force is being delivered. We could do practice swings on some scale/measuring device to get a reasonable estimate.

I am pretty sure if we took a hammer / bat / metal pipe and bashed some cameras with it, even though it's not a 'formal' test, most security users and integrators would find it useful (as in, look how easily they destroyed the IK6 Samsung dome vs the IK10++ from X).

You are of course correct that the paint is not as destructive as the hammer.

Off the topic slightly. Do you know from your experience how well a dome will clean up from a attack with spray paint? I don't. What is the recommended cleaning agent?

I would be interested in the test you propose. It would be more meaningful than the "formal drop test". I would also be interested in how well the included mounting screws stood up if you strike from the sides. If you are going to destroy some cameras I would suggestyou also see what it would take to knock them off the ceiling/wall.

Thanks. Those are good ideas re: knocking off ceiling/wall and mounting screws.

As for cleaning up spray paint from domes, @Brian, do you have any thought on this?

The dome material play a key role in this. Undoubtedly, a solvent can be used, but the formulation may smoke or smear the dome. However, by the same token, using a weaker solvent may prevent chemically burning the dome, but the extra 'elbow grease' required may scratch the surface anyway.

For polycarbonate domes, I found that mineral spirits (turpentine) was a safe solvent. Not very strong, but if the paint had only been on the dome for a few days it would come off rather easily without smoking the dome.

When you do this test, can you do it with the camera in operation to know at which point the camera dies?

We have installed cameras in public areas which were abused with a metal rod. The casing did not crack, but the shock and vibration from the impact caused some components to come loose, thus affecting the image capture.

Ri Na, Yes, we will definitely have the cameras running / capturing video.

You bring up a good point. Even if a the bubble / housing survives, there's a real chance that the impact causes some internal damage. Recording the camera's video while running will help show any immediate issues though I am not sure how we could tell if there is any longer term impact (i.e. shortening the usable life of the camera).

I would be most interested in best practices for locating a camera to avoid attack. when is a camera more likely to experience vandalism. A combination of mounting Heights and occupancy types and other circumstances?? For example how low can you mount a camera outdoors that it will never be attacked?

"For example how low can you mount a camera outdoors that it will never be attacked?"

That's a tough one, but you often hear security professionals recommending cameras never be mounted less than 12 or 14 feet off the ground. That said, I think that's really counter productive as you guarantee to have image quality suffer.

Perhaps John, there needs to be two excercises here. One to determine typical force and point of impact of a vandal attack, and another to determine survivability of cameras. I read your referred article about mounting height and generally agree, though for the purposes of vandal resistance testing a common mounting height should be used. Perhaps a members survey?. My vote is 10'.

I'd be interested in members views on actual vandalism events. In my experience vandalism has included obscuring the camera with spray paint and, in one case, post it notes, and stealing the camera completely.

Noting the spray paint / obscuring the camera, I'm pretty sure manufacturers claiming vandal resistance aren't talking about resistance to that kind of attack.

John,

I would not wast my time on this.

I agree with Luis. It would make nice video and be interesting to see results, but only interesting in an "Isn't that cool, now where was I..." type of way.

Most common vandalism attacks (based on absolutely nothing scientific, just my recollection of the most common service calls I responded to as an installer):

Camera sprayed with lighter fluid and set on fire. The camera has to be mounted particularly low for this attack to be effective. I most often saw this in elevators and low hallways. I've seen this any number of times in housing projects.

Cameras hit with blunt instrument: baseball bat, hammer, rock. Mounting the camera about 10 to 12 feet from the ground usually lessened this threat. The higher the camera, the less force that could be applied. As Timothy points out, you will need some way of measuring impact. I guess you could get a radar gun, and figure the impact from the speed plus the weight of the object? I see a bunch of radar guns on Amazon for less than a hundred bucks, meant to measure the speed of baseball pitches. Maybe you could measure and see how much force an adversary can apply to a camera based on how high off the ground it is. Maybe someone already did that study.

Cameras hit with thrown objects. You'd have to be very bored, very patient, or have very good aim to try this kind of attack, but I've replaced cameras that had been hit with large rocks before.

Cameras pulled away from intended viewing area. A bullet or box camera can have a rope thrown around it, and, eventually, be ripped away from the wall or at least pointed elsewhere. A camera mounted low enough can be pulled off the wall by an adversary jumping up and grabbing it.

Gunfire. While I bet it would be fun to mount all your least favorite cameras on a wall and shoot them to bits with shotguns, I don't know how common a threat that is, and I don't think any camera would stand up very well to gunfire.

My feelings, though, is to mount the cameras at 9.5' or 10'. Too high to grab, too high to spray easily, and even if you could smack it with a baseball bat, the impact would be so light, the camera would not be damaged, and not too high as to create a viewing angle that's too steep to be useful. You could still throw a rock at it or something, I guess.

Ari, excellent analysis, thanks!

A school project I worked on installed several cameras at 12' above the floor. It took students less than a month to discover swinging a bookbag by a single strap or bouncing a basketball off a camera was a sure way of tampering with/vandalising it, even hung >10'.

These kids were able to take a camera out by hitting them with basketballs? Were these cameras made out of marshmallows and good intentions? Did you alert college scouts and NBA coaches?

They were bullet cameras, and bouncing the ball off the ground upward into the camera repositioned them to look skyward.

Interesting, so what ways can you minimize / increase the resistance of cameras being repositioned. Domes instead of bullets? Other steps?

Domes instead of bullets are, I think, the only solution in this case.

So you need cameras watching the cameras to see who vandalizes them.

Here is our camera getting hit by a wall.

Actually that is usually a good idea in a lot of situations. I think you'll find interlocking fields of fire and the ability of one segment of a fortification to protect another goes back at least as far as Leonardo Da Vinci; most likely considerably further than that.

This is very interesting but that doesn't mean it is an useful material that can actually acknolwedge me.

This post goes back to one of the original questions about the strength of the dome. I believe that a test of dropping a weight from height onto the apex of the dome is an invalid test. This in theory should be the strongest part of the dome since the top of an arch is the strongest part of the structure. The sides of the dome would be the weak point because there is no support structure to absorb the impact and should be more prone to cracking.

Maybe, but how much damage is the sides of the dome going to be taking? I guess it depends on the mounting.

If the camera is mounted on the wall, most attacks are going to be coming down on the top of the dome anyway. If the camera is mounted to the ceiling, and the ceiling is low enough that you can take a good whack at the side of the dome, then maybe you have a point.

John, you should consider testing both kinds of attacks.

I think a side attack is the most likely scenario and the most damage could be done i.e. the camera housing busted, the camera knocked out of position, the housing being knocked off the wall, etc. A straight on attack where the impact is centrally placed would seem to be less effctive at doing any of the aforementioned occurrences.

I think you'll agree that most of those threats are minimized by simply using a dome instead of a box or bullet. I mean, that's the conclusion the community has come up with in this thread, if you think the camera is going to be vandalized, use a dome or a wedge camera. Hard to pull it off the wall, nearly impossible to knock it out of position. Which leaves the housing getting busted as the most likely issue remaining. The question is, how to determine which cameras are best at being difficult to bust?

I'm getting more and more eager to see the results of John's testing.

Minimising the risk is all that can be done because if some vandal really wants to damage the camera they will find a way to do it regardless of what form type has been chosen or the actual location of the camera.

Using as many deterrents as possible to eliminate the possibility of vandalising the camera and also monitoring/reacting to the actual event as it happens will help to capture the culprits, therefore may stop some of the continuing vandalism.

This looks like an interesting vandal resistant concept for wall mounted PTZ cameras: Axis P5414-E. The wall bracket is sloped, to prevent throwing a rope over the camera and pulling it off, like you can with a gooseneck. You couldn't even lasso it like a cowboy, although I will admit I've never actually seen anyone do that in real life anyway.

This is a youtube video when we vandal tested a dome at Hernis Scan Systems (Nowerdays Eaton, Norway).

This first test was performed with a wall bracket.

To test exactly according to IK10 a 5kg steel Hammer throw was purchased from a sport shop in Sweden.

This is the 490 SEK / approx $75 5kg steel Hammer.

Here's Axis' IK10 test video. It includes an overview of the full test harness and a slow motion replay of the test weight crashing into the dome:

This is Sony Security Systems "IK10 Rating" test.

Note that they also test IK10 from two different angels:

The field test looks more usefull than the formal test, I think I would take it a bit further, but then again. I don't know. I suppose if someone really wanted to "Take out" a camera, they could use a gun or a can of spraypaint.