Preventing Camera Theft

By: Brian Rhodes, Published on Mar 17, 2012

Reports of video surveillance cameras being stolen are surprisingly common. While the crime is ironic, the theft of camera equipment can be costly. Cameras themselves are tools used to prevent items from being stolen, but what can be done to protect cameras from being stolen themselves? In this note, we examine why cameras might be a target of theft and describe 6 effective methods for keeping them secured.

Stealing cameras

The motivation behind stealing cameras is questionable. As we previously noted, used surveillance security equipment has very limited value [link no longer available]. It does not appear that cameras are stolen with the primary motivation to resell. From our experience, we believe the primary motivation is:

  • General Vandalism: no overt aim other than to destroy the camera
  • Objection to camera placement: someone disagrees with where a camera is placed and removes it as protest
  • Precursor crime to other crimes: cameras are removed beforehand to eliminate surveillance in an area 
  • Removing recorded video: criminals foolishly assume that removing cameras also eliminates recorded evidence

News reports describing this problem emerge from all parts of the globe:

6 Protection Methods

In the following section, we address six common methods of protecting cameras. We have listed these methods in order of effectiveness and aesthetic impact.

Mounting Height

If cameras are difficult to reach, then they are more difficult to steal. Mounting cameras high is the easiest, most common and most disupted technique to stop cameras from being stolen or damaged. Many recommend mounting cameras between 12 and 15 feet high. This makes it impossible for a person to reach unaided.

Here is an example of a camera mounted high and out of reach:

However, the big downside is that the higher the camera is mounted, the steeper the downtilt to monitor what is happening on the ground. This results in bad angles and seeing the top of heads rather than faces. This can defeat the purpose of having a camera as shown in the real world example below:

Get Notified of Video Surveillance Breaking News
Get Notified of Video Surveillance Breaking News

Tamper Screws

A simple and effective measure is to install all exterior cameras with tamper-resistant hardware. This hardware features a specially formed head that can only be turned by matching specially bitted drivers. Mounting cameras with common phillips-head fasteners mean they can be uninstalled with common phillips-head drivers. These tamper resistant fasteners are most costly than common mounting hardware (as expensive as $5 per fastener) and available in all sizes. Matching driver tools and bits can be order from a variety of sources, including security products resellers and tool distributors.

Anti-climb Brackets

These brackets are a spiked harnesses that surround a pole just under a camera. This method of protecting cameras is aggressive, unsightly and not suitable for all mounting locations, but for cameras mounted on poles they are especially effective in discouraging tampering or theft. While mounted at height, these cameras are vulnerable to being accessed by climbing the pole to which they are mounted. These spikes present a physical barrier between the camera and the theft attempt. The effectiveness of this method may rely somewhat on the psychlogical effect of including sharp spikes. These brackets are available in a variety of configurations and can be bought for about $150 per assembly.

Camera Cage

As a last resort, a camera cage can be considered. These products are unsightly, attract undue attention, and accumulate trash and attract pests. These problems do not even begin to address the impact a cage might have on a camera's Field of View. However, covering a camera in an expanded metal cage certainly requires devoted attention to defeat. These products are made to mount directly to a building with lagbolts, and may feature trapdoors or access panels secured close with padlocks. Camera cages are available in a variety of sizes and finishes, and cost about $300 per unit.

Tamper Alarms

Some IP cameras support tamper alarming onboard the camera. This feature provides for the camera to send an alarm when the Field of View quickly and significantly changes as if someone spraypaints the lens or physically removes the camera from a mount. This feature does nothing to make it more difficult to steal a camera, but it does enable the camera to send an alarm out sooner than may otherwise be detected. For this feature to be useful, it must be properly configured and monitored, which minimizes the utility of the alarm. This feature is not available on all cameras but, if available, has a nominal configuration cost.

Layers of Security

Video surveillance is best used as a single 'security layer' among other security systems. Training elements of the intrusion system on surveillance cameras is a prudent move. This may be as simple as orienting a PIR motion detector to include areas where cameras are located, up to including contact switches on the back of cameras themselves. Supplementing light in areas where cameras are located has a mixed opinion on preventing crime [link no longer available], but the additional lighting can also help the cameras perform better by avoiding low light situations. These methods are hard to quantify in specific costs, but generally existing systems can be inexpensively expanded to address these areas.

Conclusion

Surveillance camera theft is a global problem motivated by a variety of reasons. Using these methods will help protect cameras from being stolen. Spending money to protect these devices during installation can prevent much great expenses for replacing equipment later. 

Comments : Members only. Login. or Join.

Related Reports

Cable Firestopping Installation Guide on Mar 06, 2019
Installing cables through firewalls is a critical installation issue. Failing to properly seal a penetration can cause smoke and fire to spread,...
Camera Pendant Mounting Guide on Mar 07, 2019
It is often necessary to suspend a camera from a high open ceiling. This is commonplace in retail, warehouse, industrial sites, hangars, and other...
Installation Course January 2020 - Last Chance on Jan 16, 2020
Thursday, January 16th is your last chance to register for the Winter 2020 Video Surveillance Installation Course. This is a unique installation...
Outdoor Camera Installation Guide on Mar 25, 2019
Outdoor camera installation can be fraught with problems. Creating a sturdy and weather tight mount is key for camera performance and longevity,...
Pole Mount Camera Installation Guide on Apr 11, 2019
Poles are a popular but challenging choice for deploying surveillance cameras outdoors. Poles are indispensable for putting cameras at the right...
Riser vs Plenum Cabling Explained on Apr 18, 2019
You could be spending twice as much for cable as you need. The difference between 'plenum' rated cable and 'riser' rated cable is subtle, but the...
Lasers Impact on Surveillance Cameras Tested on Sep 25, 2019
Hong Kong protests have brought global attention to video surveillance and the ongoing attempts of protesters to disable or undermine those cameras...
Camera Cable Whip Guide on Oct 02, 2019
Cable whips are one of integrator's least favorite camera features but seem to be unavoidable, now commonplace on dome, turret, and bullet cameras...
Covert Elevator Face Recognition on Oct 24, 2019
Covert elevator facial recognition has the potential to solve the cost and complexity of elevator surveillance while engendering immense privacy...
Horizontal Cabling for Video Surveillance Guide on Jan 03, 2020
There are a few options when it comes to professionally installing horizontal cabling for video surveillance networks. The three options examined...

Most Recent Industry Reports

Hazardous & Explosion Proof Access Control Tutorial on Feb 27, 2020
Controlling access to hazardous environments requires equipment meeting specific ratings that certify they will not start fires or will not...
Motorola / Avigilon Drops ISC West on Feb 26, 2020
Motorola Solutions has pulled out of ISC West 2020 effective immediately, because of coronavirus concerns, IPVM has learned. This is done amidst...
Cancel or Not? Industry Split Over ISC West on Feb 26, 2020
The industry is split, polarized, over whether ISC West 2020 should run or be canceled. New IPVM survey results of 400+ respondents show heated...
Coronavirus Hits Sony, Bosch Says Switch on Feb 26, 2020
Sony's fall in video surveillance has been severe over the past decade. Now, they may be done. In this note, we examine Bosch's new...
Video Surveillance Cameras 101 on Feb 25, 2020
Cameras come in many shapes, sizes and specifications. This 101 examines the basics of cameras and features used in 2020. In this report, we...
Favorite Video Analytic Manufacturers 2020 on Feb 25, 2020
Video analytics is now as hot as ever, driven by the excitement of advancing deep learning offers. But what are actually integrator's...
Latest London Police Facial Recognition Suffers Serious Issues on Feb 24, 2020
On February 20, IPVM visited another live face rec deployment by London police, but this time the system was thwarted by technical problems and...
Masks Cause Major Facial Recognition Problems on Feb 24, 2020
Coronavirus is spurring an increase in the use of medical masks, which new IPVM test results show cause major problems for facial recognition...
Every VMS Will Become a VSaaS on Feb 21, 2020
VMS is ending. Soon every VMS will be a VSaaS. Competitive dynamics will be redrawn. What does this mean? VMS Historically...
Video Surveillance 101 Course - Last Chance on Feb 20, 2020
This is the last chance to join IPVM's first Video Surveillance 101 course, designed to help those new to the industry to quickly understand the...