web analytics

The Perception of Security is Not Enough: Surveillance Cameras Don’t Fight Crime.

RAD's ARS Does!

Security cameras are not security guards. Unfortunately, too many well intentioned but misguided municipalities, colleges, and commercial properties fail to understand the fundamental differences between the two.

Today’s news is filled with stories like this recent one from Houston, Texas. In an effort to “fight crime,” the City Council there is considering a new ordinance that requires several types of commercial businesses to install security cameras facing their parking lots. As of this writing, the vote has been delayed as council members discuss expanding this requirement to all businesses. Also, holding up a vote are concerns about whether store owners can afford the expense.[1]

Here’s another concern that isn’t being discussed by Houston’s City Council but absolutely should be. Security cameras won’t work. At least not at deterring crime. Studies conducted in Newark, Cincinnati, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Sweden each have demonstrated that the presence of security cameras has no effect on violent offenses and provides only minimal deterrence against auto theft.[2] Houston…we have a problem.

So what do security cameras do? They can assist after the fact, providing evidence that might help identify, apprehend and prosecute suspects. They also contribute to a “perception” of enhanced security. A majority of American adults say they feel safer in places where cameras are present.[3] In some facets of life, the adage “perception is reality” holds true, but this is not one of them. Criminals see security cameras and think, “so what?” They know that only a tiny fraction of systems are monitored live, and even when they are, it will take a while before an officer arrives on site to investigate. A hoodie and a mask are all that bad guys needs to obscure their identity and proceed with nefarious plans.

Why, then, are countless entities investing in security cameras to deter crime? Because they’re under pressure to do “something,” security guards are too expensive, and they don’t realize that new technology offers a highly effective alternative.

Cameras don’t work at deterring crime because they are too passive. They fail to strike fear in the individuals they’re meant to scare off. By contrast, RAD’s comprehensive line of security devices, marketed as Autonomous Remote Services (ARS), has proven to deter criminal behavior by making anyone in the proximity of the devices aware of their presence and the fact that they are actively under surveillance. The units come in a range of form factors and share a common software platform that facilitates monitoring and controlling of the devices’ AI-driven technologies. These include embedded security cameras, autonomous responsive digital signage and audio messaging, bright lights and sirens, human and vehicle detection, two-way communication systems, and more – depending on the model. Automated responses are augmented with live, managed intervention from human officers when necessary.

For example, Midway Car Rental, the largest privately-owned car rental company in Southern California, uses RAD’S ROSA (Responsive Observation Security Agent) models to protect millions of dollars of vehicles parked in its lots and the employees and clients who frequent its premises. During the day, ROSA units are programmed to display welcome and marketing messages and gentle reminders that the property is under surveillance. However, when off-hours begin, ROSA is like Clark Kent transforming himself into Superman. Upon detecting a human or moving vehicle, its automated responses kick in with flashing red lights and admonishments to vacate the property immediately. Trained remote monitoring personnel, who receive live alerts and video of the situation, can issue commands over the device’s loudspeaker. Compared to standard security cameras, imagine how much more effective an ARS-enabled security solution would be in Houston’s parking lots!

Midway’s General Manager has watched trespassers encounter the company’s ROSAs. “They look like they’ve seen a ghost,” he ways. “I was skeptical at first whether technology could provide both consistent monitoring and serve as a deterrent. However, in very short order, our problems with vandalism and graffiti were gone. In less than 10 days after installation, the vagrants had disappeared. It was like night and day.”

In a variation of marrying ARS technology with remote human officers, RAD offers another solution called “RAD Light My Way” which is designed specifically to deliver legitimate peace of mind to individuals traversing parking lots and walkways at night. A fleet of RAD devices, all linked to a mobile app provided to the subscribed users, can be strategically positioned throughout areas of concern to provide coverage. When someone wishes to walk to their car and feels insecure and vulnerable – due to the late hour, lack of others around, poor lighting, or any other consideration – they simply push a button on their app. Lights brighten on all of the RAD devices, customized LED messages scroll across the units, and the person can hear and speak with a live officer from anywhere within the secured area, knowing that they are under live observation. The remote officer can stay with them until they are safely “escorted” to their car.

Again, this solution would prove far more effective at fighting crime than blanketing a community’s parking lots with more surveillance cameras. It leverages technology that delivers meaningful, proactive security measures that deter criminals while focusing human resources where and when they are needed. It is also cost-effective. RAD solutions are cellular optimized, requiring no network infrastructure, making them easy to install, and device subscriptions and monitoring services cost a fraction of what equivalent levels of guard services would cost.  

Rather than wasting money on tired solutions that chase after the illusion of security, municipalities, colleges, and commercial properties should be investing in proven technologies that deliver results. At last, such solutions exist, and their need has never been so urgent. The aftermath of COVID has produced a violent crime wave unlike any in history, affecting big cities, small towns, and rural areas alike.[4] RAD’s affordable, scalable solutions are ready and waiting. Let’s hope those decision-makers responsible for investing in public safety technology are equally up to the task!