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Security Cameras VS Security Guards

Security Cameras VS Security Guards

Author: James Watson, Owner/President
Texas Marshal Protection Agency, LLC

As a business owner or executive, it can be a daunting task to determine how to best protect your business from crime. If you have any sort of physical location, I’m sure at some point you’ve looked into security cameras, alarm systems, and security guards to protect your property. Every one of these products and services are certainly worth looking into, but most only think about the costs associated, failing to carefully analyze the unique benefits (and shortfalls) of each.

Let’s talk a bit about security cameras, and some of our clients’ experiences with them.

Cameras let our client down. #

Back in October of 2020, we had a business reach out to us after their location got hit by catalytic converter theft. The perimeter of the property was fenced off with chain-link fencing with barbed wire strands on top, they had security cameras all around the exterior of the main building, a front vehicular gate and pedestrian gate both controlled by a sophisticated card/code access system, and the building itself also had a similar access control system which used proximity cards to unlock the magnetic locking mechanisms to gain entry into the building.

The average person would think the business was pretty well protected, with the physical barriers, security cameras, and technology that the business had invested in. Unfortunately, the thieves decided they didn’t need to jump over the fence and get cut by the barbed wire, when they could easily cut through the chain-link fence with a power tool. Once inside the property, they had access to dozens of commercial delivery trucks with catalytic converters worth thousands of dollars each, and they took the time to crawl under several of the trucks, cutting the catalytic converters off with a power tool and throwing them in the back of a truck that was parked on the other side of the fence.

The security cameras on the building weren’t being monitored, so no one saw this happening, and unfortunately they didn’t capture anything useful for evidence after the fact, since they were so far away from the trucks being targeted.

They failed not once, but three times! #

The business mentioned above hired us to protect the property for about two months until they could figure out a long-term solution that their corporate office would agree with. They ultimately decided that fixing the fence and having protective cages welded under the catalytic converters was the best solution, so once that was done, they cut us loose.

Eight months later, they got hit again! Same situation…they cut the fence and walked right in, hitting more trucks than before. I never did get clarification on whether or not the trucks they hit this time had the cages installed around the catalytic converters, but regardless, the security cameras were of little help in capturing anything useful for police to use for evidence. So, they hired us for the next eight months to protect the property, until management could determine the next course of action. Ultimately, it was decided that they needed more security cameras, which were installed where the fence was being cut. In addition to these new security cameras, they signed up for the camera company’s remote monitoring services, so that criminal activity can be caught in real time.

Eight months later, we’re getting called out yet again. This time, the fence was cut on the opposite side of the property, which just so happened to be a blind spot for the security cameras. The thieves broke into a storage trailer and the back of one of the trucks before they were caught by the folks monitoring the security cameras – thankfully the company sounded an alarm that scared off these criminals before they could actually take anything. We were hired for the next three weeks to protect the property until more security cameras could be installed to watch the area that they targeted this time.

One must ask themselves what would’ve happened if the burglar alarm didn’t scare those thieves off. If they were more determined, they could’ve made off with thousands of dollars worth of equipment. Would police have gotten there in time to effect an arrest, and if not, would the security cameras have caught any good evidence such as faces, license plates, or other useful information to hold the criminals accountable? It’s worth asking these questions, because in this instance, they didn’t capture anything useful.

Interestingly enough, these criminals went back through the hole they made in the fence, and zip tied it back together, as if they were going to come back later to finish the job. This action, at least to me, indicates that they weren’t phased by the cameras or the alarm; what they did next was probably hide and wait around to see how long it took for police to arrive, and noting their response time so that they’re better prepared next time.

Monitored or not...there's still risk. #

After reading the last three paragraphs, you can see that even monitored security cameras have their weaknesses, with blind spots being a major one. Then there’s the technology behind the security cameras, from the physical camera hardware itself, the software it uses to transmit data to the monitoring station along with the internet connection it uses to accomplish that, and the human (or AI) that’s watching the footage to set off the alarm and dispatch police.

There are literally dozens of things that have to go just right for even monitored security cameras to effectively protect your business; no blind spots, no equipment failure, no human error, and good police response times just to name a few. And as you can see above, security cameras that aren’t monitored are really only good for one thing; capturing evidence…and that’s only if they’re close enough to actually capture anything useful.

How is security better? #

First, there’s the presence of a uniformed security guard on your property, which is already in and of itself a deterrent for crime. Then, there’s the fact that you have a real human being there on property, ready to take action should a criminal act take place. Finally, if the security guard on your property is commissioned (armed), they have the tools and training to effect an arrest should the criminal offense be of an arrestable nature.

The security cameras they make nowadays have flashing lights that are supposed to deter crime, but come on, really. Security cameras are also unable to physically remove a trespasser or take any physical action at all for that matter, and they most certainly can’t make an arrest on the spot.

Summary #

Putting it all together, are security cameras worth the investment? Absolutely! However, don’t expect to spend a few hundred to a few thousand dollars on a commercial-grade security camera system (no matter how sophisticated it may be), and expect your business to be any less susceptible to crime.

We’ve had multiple clients invest their hard-earned money into security cameras, and entrusted that technology alone to protect their businesses and their assets. The client we discussed above is just one of many that we’ve had come to us after their cameras did absolutely nothing to protect their business.

As we’ve observed, even with monitored security cameras, there is a long chain of events that must take place prior to the police arriving and (if you’re lucky) an arrest being made. Security cameras are great to have, but they offer no guarantees that your property will be secure. At the end of the day, you can’t beat having a security guard on your property keeping everything safe and secure, ready to act swiftly to counter any threat to your property.

Extra: SAPD Response Times #

According to the City of San Antonio’s website, as of 2018, the average response time for the San Antonio Police Department was just over 18 minutes. (Source: SAPD Citywide Average Response Times – 2018)

This data is several years old as you can see, and I’m not sure why there aren’t any more recent publications of this information, but it’s still food for thought! Think about what a criminal is capable of doing at your business for 18 minutes…that’s plenty of time for them to do what they came to do and wave at your cameras as they flee the scene.

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