Government Ignorance and Camera Positioning Challenges

By John Honovich, Published May 17, 2010, 08:00pm EDT

Ironically, government organizations like the US FBI blame end users when they fail to understand the operational realities of video surveillance systems.

In a recent TV report [link no longer available], the FBI criticized poor camera placement, calling for lower camera positioning to solve crimes. While high camera positioning is frustrating and does hinder some investigations, it is a rational choice by many users. The embedded video below presents the FBI's case:

The FBI fails to acknowledge 3 critical elements that makes their recommendations difficult to implement:

  • Customer Comfort: Most customers prefer not to have surveillance cameras placed close to them. Companies are concerned that customers will feel threatened and take their business to competitors who are not so overt about their monitoring. Casinos could improve security by placing cameras on the tables staring at each gamer but they do not because they (correctly) fear that they will lose business. Banks could force customers to take off hats. In practice, they usually do not because they fear offending a wealthy customer.
  • Camera Tampering: The lower the cameras, the more likely the cameras will be tampered or vandalized, increasing costs. This is a common reason why cameras are put out of the reach of people.
  • Higher Positioning, Broader Views: The lower the camera is put, the more likely the camera will be blocked by walls, shelves, people, trees, etc. This significantly reduces coverage and can force the installation of cameras, costing more money.

While I sympathize with the problems that arise from positioning cameras high, often it is the best possible outcome. Slightly reducing camera heights can moderately improve the situation without engendering these other problems. However, no magic technology (megapixels, analytics, etc.) will solve this very difficult real world issue.

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