Dummy Or Smart Cameras

Dummy Cameras or Smart Cameras? You be The Judge!

January 1, 2006

By Fred Miller, CPP, CFE


You've probably heard these facts: the U.S. Chamber of Commerce says $50 billion is lost annually due to employee theft and fraud. Substance abuse is the third leading cause of workplace violence according to the National Drug-Free Workplace Alliance.

You need to find ways to protect your company and employees, deter theft, and identify malfeasance and misconduct. One way is through CCTV (closed circuit television) systems. You may have selected a number of security system providers to give you bids, only to find their quotes seem too high for the camera coverage you need and desire.

Shopping on the Internet you immediately see a camera system for only a few hundred dollars, including the "Warning, These premises are under 24-hour monitoring" signage. How could this be, when you were quoted thousand of dollars for a similar system? Further research reveals these are dummy cameras. You may ask, “So what; the cameras are only to deter crime and we don’t have a security guard to watch real camera monitors, anyway. After all, with dummy cameras, we're deterring crime and saving the company money.” But is that right?

Consider the following event taking place: After a "dummy" camera system is in place, an employee or customer is seriously injured or attacked, or you experience a large theft. The incident was within the viewing area of the "dummy" cameras. When an insurance company, law enforcement, or plaintiff’s attorney asks for the video, you must admit your cameras are fake and your signs misleading. When your employees learn of fake cameras and warning signs, they feel deceived. The plaintiff tells his attorney the cameras and signs provided a false sense of security. Your insurance company questions your insurance rates and coverage in light of the disclosure. It gets worse.

In the long run, you did not save money; you placed the company in financial jeopardy.

CCTV, properly installed following a professional security survey and security audit, can be a true deterrent and investigative tool. When Diversified Risk Management conducts a security review, security survey, or investigation, we clearly explain dummy cameras and accompanying misleading signs spell potential liability.

Plaintiff's attorneys may certainly tell you, "The concept isn't too much different than other landlord liability cases. If the cameras don't work [or are fake] and tenants [and visitors] of the property do believe them to be real, there could be an issue of 'reliance.’"

"If the tenants rely on the fact that cameras are present in either entering into a lease in the first place or if it influences their decisions regarding their use of the premises [shopper, student or visitor], the failure to disclose that they are dummy cameras might give rise to liability. It gives a 'false sense of security.’"

With more than 30 years in Investigation and Security Consulting fields, Diversified Risk Management has learned CCTV can be one of many valuable deterrents if properly installed and used, and will help identify not only theft but also violations of company policies that lead to theft, waste, fraud, and even worker's compensation claims. CCTV, combined with pre-employment screening, access control, security education training, and strong drug, theft, harassment, and workplace violence policies, are all powerful tools to deter and detect problems that affect your profitability.

The tools we just mentioned cannot catch everything and if an employee decides to steal to support a habit, these tools may not stop the employee. The National Drug-Free Workplace Alliance reports that 80 percent of drug abusers steal from their employers to support drug addiction. Because CCTV is limited, in many cases an undercover investigator is the most cost effective and reliable means of correcting problems.

In conclusion, if you want to deter crime, be aware of the legal liability of making misleading statements about your security coverage, regarding phony CCTV or other means. It might be cheaper in the short run, but exposing your company in the long run will not solve your problems, perhaps only create bigger ones.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce reports that 20% of all businesses fail due to internal theft and fraud.

About the Author:

Mr. Fred Miller, CPP, CFE serves as Director of Business Development and Senior Executive Investigator at Diversified Risk Management, Inc.'s Los Angeles office. He assists employers and law firms who represent employers in all aspects of workplace risk management.