When it comes to the purpose behind public video surveillance, deterrence is still the primary objective. It’s a heavily researched subject. In fact, in 2011 Urban Institute published an authoritative report, which (among other things), outlines the basic premises of why surveillance is important and useful to the public. Here’s a quick breakdown:
1. Would-be criminals perceive a greater risk of being caught if they know they are being watched.
2. Law-abiding citizens perceive an enhanced sense of safety where surveillance systems exist.
3. Surveillance systems are thought to enhance the efficiency of criminal justice jurisdictions that implement them.
4. Recorded footage documenting criminal activity may aid investigations and prosecutions, thereby increasing police and prosecutorial efficiency to the benefit of crime victims.
Of course, the advantage security and surveillance technology yields to law enforcement probably doesn’t come as news to anyone. It’s a well-known story that hinges on placing a representative of authority between those who might do harm, and those who might be harmed. What may come as news, however, is the fact that not all the advantages of surveillance technology are about Big-Brother government surveillance; there is another version of the story, which many commercial enterprises have learned to adapt to their own interests. Once you know that version, you’ll have a broader understanding of why surveillance is so vitally important. Let’s begin with some examples.
Monitoring Market Behavior
Not all market behaviors can be measured in charts and graphs from the ivory towers of Wall Street. Some of the most important market research happens right at the place where buyers meet vendors. Business owners with a little insight, and who understand the importance of video surveillance can extend their market perspective with a handful of well-placed gadgets. A car dealership, for example, might use video surveillance to monitor which cars on the lot are getting the most customer attention, potentially indicating which models have the most local appeal. With information like that, a car dealership can optimize the way cars are arranged on the lot, placing the most popular models in the most easy-access spots.
Often during seasons when weather patterns are unpredictable, construction workers get up bright and early to commute to the job site only to find that the conditions are unsuitable for work. As a result, company time and money go to waste. During an unusually snowy winter or an unusually rainy spring, this wasted capital can really add up. In this case, another one of the benefits of surveillance is that crews can check on worksite conditions before leaving home, or leaving the shop. And if things don’t look good, they can reallocate their time and efforts towards other activities.
A safety manager’s job is to make sure every employee adheres to federal, state, and local protocols, and there’s a lot at stake. One of the problems safety managers sometimes face is that potentially-dangerous work processes are spread across fairly large spaces, like the entire roof of a building under construction. It’s not feasible to hire the same number of safety managers as workers just to ensure each employee gets proper monitoring minute-by-minute. As such, one of the benefits of security cameras is they can be placed to provide a 360-degree view of worksites where dangerous processes are underway. Then, rather than being yet another person working in the danger zone, safety managers can monitor the work from a remote location, and communicate with workers via radio or cell phone.
Not every instance of employers using the benefits of security cameras is necessarily a case of snooping. For instance, monitoring employee productivity may lead to insights about how to improve work processes. It may also reveal problems that aren’t being reported. One of the greatest benefits of surveillance for employers is that it gives them an objective perspective on workplace matters.
Some of the most-interesting insights regarding surveillance advantages have come from all the ways surveillance technology can be used for purposes other than security. In addition to placing a watchman between people with competing interests, surveillance benefits can be turned into more of a direct visual link between individuals. The fact is, the benefits of surveillance technology can be applied in an unlimited number of ways. All it takes is a little creative problem-solving.