What Would You Like Me To Cover?

I'm currently working on interviews with a video forensics expert on how to make video valuable to investigations, an expert on retail security on trends in retail and a loss prevention manager who says surveillance has kept them out of lawsuits. I'm also always looking for interesting city contracts and RFPs and tracking legal issues related to surveillance. What are some topics and issues in surveillance that you'd like to see me take a closer look at?


I would love to see some impartial studies based on scientific data that show the effectiveness (or non-effectiveness) of video surveilllance systems in various types of environments. There are lots of commonly-held beliefs and folklore about the deterrent value of video surveillance, but little actual factual data to back it up.

Marty Major would love an investigation into the effectiveness of retail analytics.

I was always intrigued by the volume of 'sole source' awards in US government jobs that solicited 'mass marketed' product. When you ask a purchase agent 'What's up with THAT?' they just kind of brush you off.

Michael, thanks! I'd really like us to do that though the 'scientific data' part makes me a little nervous! We can try to analyze it quantitatively and rigorously, but it's 'soft' science at best, by its nature.

What we could do is analysis of individual end users, walking through their use, costs, return, etc. What do you think about that? Suggestions?

John, my term "scientific" might have been a little too severe, but things that I think would be desirable in any type of study include:

  • Accurate data gathering system in place, such as security incident reports or police crime reports.
  • Metrics are quantifiable rather than subjective. ("25 losses per month before we installed the system, 5 losses per month after we installed the system..." vs "gee, things seem a lot better..."
  • Relatively high-frequency events are used as data points (10 to 15 car prowls per month occurring in parking lots vs 1 rape that occurred in parking lot since it was built 15 years ago.)
  • Solution being analyzed can be isolated (if cameras, better lighting, and increased security patrols were all added at the same time, who can say which measure is responsible for reduction in crime?)
  • Data and conclusions are subject to peer review.
  • Person(s) conducting study have no stake in its outcome.

With regards to the last point, I have found that end-users who have spent a boatload of their company's money on a security solution are sometimes not the best source of objective information. If the system is a failure, they are often reluctant to admit it as they feel that they are at least partially responsible for the outcome. A few brave souls will step up to the plate and tell you the truth, but in many cases, the end-user tries to paint a unrealistically flattering picture to hide his system's shortcomings.

John, my term "scientific" might have been a little too severe, but things that I think would be desirable in any type of study include:

  • Accurate data gathering system in place, such as security incident reports or police crime reports.
  • Metrics are quantifiable rather than subjective. ("25 losses per month before we installed the system, 5 losses per month after we installed the system..." vs "gee, things seem a lot better..."
  • Relatively high-frequency events are used as data points (10 to 15 car prowls per month occurring in parking lots vs 1 rape that occurred in parking lot since it was built 15 years ago.)
  • Solution being analyzed can be isolated (if cameras, better lighting, and increased security patrols were all added at the same time, who can say which measure is responsible for reduction in crime?)
  • Data and conclusions are subject to peer review.
  • Person(s) conducting study have no stake in its outcome.

With regards to the last point, I have found that end-users who have spent a boatload of their company's money on a security solution are sometimes not the best source of objective information. If the system is a failure, they are often reluctant to admit it as they feel that they are at least partially responsible for the outcome. A few brave souls will step up to the plate and tell you the truth, but in many cases, the end-user tries to paint a unrealistically flattering picture to hide his system's shortcomings.

Michael, that is a great idea and I know what you mean. It is hard to find studies like that, but there are one off studies every now and then by universities and research centers. I can think of one from years ago by the USDOJ and possibly one by the Mineta Institute that touch a little on surveillance. It's a shame there aren't more. I will definitely keep an eye out for those report on them.