So what do you need to know about installing CCTV to guard your home? Until recently it wasn’t something I’d though much about but, after a relative was subjected to a number of doorstep cons and various other crimes had been committed locally, a CCTV installation was suggested by the police. These systems not only act as a deterrent but provide hard evidence should it be needed.
CCTV (closed circuit television) has come a long way in recent years. The cameras are better, the pictures are not bad and the ability to monitor and record them is reasonably sophisticated, although you obviously get what you pay for.
One thing to be clear about at the outset is that the average criminal is knowledgeable about these systems. They know a dummy camera when they see one, they know the cameras that don’t provide great pictures and they know if a system is up to scratch; so there’s no point being half hearted about the installation.
There are three key components to a CCTV system: the camera, the monitor and the hard drive that records the images. The camera can be remote from the hard drive and it’s best to site this recorder well away from the front door so that thieves or conmen won’t easily be able to remove it – and the recorded evidence – if they do get into the property. The monitor – basically a computer screen – is used to see what the camera is seeing and to view the images recorded on the hard drive. Cameras range hugely in the quality of picture they offer, the range they operate at and how well they perform at night. Most switch to black and white mode when it’s dark. Increasingly, systems allow remote monitoring of the pictures via an app on your phone or computer which is useful if you want to keep an eye on your property while you’re away.
Siting the camera
Importantly the camera, or cameras, must capture the faces of the criminals, so there’s no point pointing them at the front door where they will only see the back of heads. Much better to aim them down the path so you catch faces as they glance up towards the door. Where possible it’s worth having the camera high up to avoid it being tampered with but there’s a trade-off here because, if it’s too high, you will only see the top of people’s heads. In any case, it should be vandal resistant. Another consideration is extraneous lighting: it’s important to avoid having a light in vision that may flare or one that will backlight the subject so faces go dark. The other thing to remember is that the camera must not point into your neighbour’s property. There are also aesthetic consideration, especially with older buildings, but it’s worth bearing in mind that the camera needs to be visible if it’s to deter trouble. On this point, it’s important to ensure a notice is displayed – possibly in a window or on the front door – saying that CCTV is in operation.
The range of systems is immense. The cheapest option is a DIY system, some of which are quite respectable but obviously rely on your ability to install them successfully. Professional installers vary greatly in what they offer, both in terms of quality of system and professionalism, so care needs to be taken before inviting them into your home. If you already have an intruder alarm you may find that your alarm company installs CCTV. Beware though, some sign you up for a long term contract with a monthly maintenance fee.
Image: CCTV cameras provide added security. Credit: Roger Hunt