On Saturday 20th September, 2014, a business owner in Trinidad who operated a convenience store beneath his home for the last 50 years was attacked and robbed by two armed bandits pretending to be customers. The store is a short distance from the South Oropouche Police Station.
Having a business place near to a Police Station causes most people to think that the particular business is safe. One would think that robbers would not seek to commit a robbery of a business place that is so close to a Police Station. An even more important point is that this business owner had CCTV cameras in the business.
As we have written in a previous article, many people when thinking about property protection, believe that the solution is a CCTV system. It seems that people’s thinking is being driven by hearing about the CCTV network in London and watching television shows such as CSI, and by a misunderstanding about the criminal mind, believing that criminals think like the average person.
People believe that criminals will form the view that this place has cameras and so they will be able to catch me and therefore, I will go elsewhere. As a result, there is the view that CCTV is a deterrent and it can be, but it is not a complete deterrent. CCTV’s biggest benefit comes after an event has occurred in the provision of evidence. The recorded images allow one to see what happened and hopefully identify the perpetrators. However, the robbery or burglary or theft has already occurred.
In this robbery, the robbers not only took the cash, but also took the DVR for the CCTV system. Thus, the greatest benefit of the CCTV system was lost because now, there are no recorded images to show the Police.
Where did they learn this technique? The answer is obvious, from TV. Those same TV shows that so enthrall the public and drive our thinking that CCTV is the solution to crime prevention, also teach bandits the techniques that may be used to catch them and therefore, the techniques they should employ to escape being caught.
The majority of CCTV systems that are installed in businesses have very visible cameras, as owners want people to see and know that they have a CCTV system, and are recording them. Owners believe that these visible cameras have a deterrent effect. In this particular case however, there was no deterrent because the robbers still committed the robbery and then took the DVR.
So the question now becomes, what should a business owner do?
One option for business owners is to use hidden cameras. As a result of the miniaturization that has been made possible through technological improvements, there are now very small cameras that can be fitted into ordinary everyday objects. Cameras can be fitted into objects such as clocks and exit signs. A business owner can therefore have a CCTV system installed, but have no visible cameras.
Consequently, a thief seeking to rob a business will not know that the business place has CCTV and therefore will not go looking for the DVR to destroy it or take it away.
While hidden cameras are a solution to the particular situation highlighted at the start of this article, it does remove the deterrent effect, as no one knows that there is a system.
While we have stated that CCTV is not a complete deterrent, it does have some deterrent effect. Businesses that operate on the self serve model and have goods on shelves to be picked up by customers, have a potential shoplifting problem.
Visible CCTV systems do provide deterrence against shoplifting, along with some deterrence against robbery. Switching to hidden cameras therefore removes the shoplifting deterrence and also removes the deterrent against the less knowledgeable robber.
One other aspect of the use of CCTV systems, is the use of signage advising that a CCTV system is in operation at the particular location. These signs are generally employed as part of the deterrent strategy as they tell potential robbers that “we are recording you”.
The signs, however, also serve another useful function in relation to customers. They alert the honest customer that a system is in use and so saves the customer from taking any embarrassing actions that they would not want recorded.
One however, cannot employ hidden cameras and also have the signage because then the robber who has been made aware by TV will know to look for the DVR.
Another option is to have the DVR connected to the cameras, but in a separate location away from business premises. Thus, if a robber seeks to find the DVR in order to remove the evidence of the crime, it would not be on the premises that he is robbing. Even if he uses threats of violence against the staff, they cannot provide the DVR to him because it would not be at that location.
Having the DVR recording at a separate location is technically possible if the business has a network connecting its various premises, and even for businesses that do not have a computer network, it can be achieved by sending the signal via the Internet.
A variation of this approach is to have double recording where there is a DVR at the business location and simultaneously the images are recorded at another location offsite.
Television often shows us many of the things that are possible in the fight against crime in the Caribbean. Unfortunately, TV and movies are also showing the robbers techniques for avoiding capture. Business owners therefore always have to be evaluating their security systems, and making enhancements in order to stay ahead of the criminal minds.
About the Author
Brian Ramsey has a B.A. in Accounting & Management, along with an M.B.A. in Finance and over 25 years in the Caribbean security field. He is the Regional Development Director for Amalgamated Security Services Limited which is the parent company of Alternative Security Services St. Lucia Limited. Amalgamated Security operates in Grenada, Barbados, St Lucia and Trinidad and Tobago. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org