CCTV is not new as an electronic product or service. Though like all electronic equipment, this product continues to develop technologically, offering ever-better clarity, data transmission and reliability to prove its usefulness. The choice of products is staggering and the service options are expanding in ways that can complicate legal implications.
When CCTV first appeared (and I am not that technical), it was a local camera wired to a monitor and local recording device, originally videotape and later a DVR. This did not present a great deal of revenue for the installer, and virtually no recurring revenue. That changed. CCTV no longer needed to rely on a local DVR; alarm installers offered monitoring and storage of data at the central station.
Soon thereafter communication made it possible for CCTV to be monitored continuously, not just when an alarm signal was activated. Eventually, CCTV replaced the building's door man. The latest innovation is a camera system that transmits data directly to a smart phone so the subscriber can view the real-time condition of the premises.
CCTV has also become a valuable tool in cutting down on needless alarm responder dispatches. With false alarms continuing to plague the industry and nonstop criticism by nearly all law enforcement and local municipalities, not to mention the imposition of fines and nonresponse policies, it's not surprising alarm verification has spread and is now a common requirement in many jurisdictions. Typical verification requires several telephone calls to the premises, but CCTV confirmation is also acceptable and called for in some locals.
But CCTV in connection with alarm verification is not the only usefulness of this technology. Video surveillance is helpful for crime prevention and also for criminal apprehension. Recently, an intruder walked into a retail drugstore in broad daylight and killed two store employees and two patrons. His face was captured on the store's CCTV system. In less than one week law enforcement apprehended the suspect and video confirmation is going to make conviction a certainty. In this jurisdiction the CCTV was voluntary, but that's not always the case.
In El Cerrito, Calif., certain businesses are required to install and maintain CCTV systems. These "high risk businesses" include liquor stores, gun stores, fast-food places, convenience stores, pawnbrokers, banks, check-cashing businesses and shopping centers. The city mandates the precise specifications for the CCTV requirements and does maintain a list of qualified installers. You can check out these requirements at www.el-cerrito.org/police/pdf/cctv_guide0805_web.pdf.
The business opportunities offered by CCTV have not been lost on the alarm industry. Alarm associations have been active in influencing legislation to license alarm companies and require licensed qualifiers to install alarm systems. In many jurisdictions "alarm systems" include the installation of CCTV (access control is also often covered). This is especially so when the CCTV is installed as a security measure or connected to the security system.
Additionally, alarm companies have incorporated the CCTV systems into their business models to generate more revenue and create more equity or value for the business. CCTV system installations that were installed for a nominal one-time charge are giving way to comprehensive systems that are an important component of the overall security system, and alarm companies are charging recurring revenue for the administration, servicing, monitoring and data storage of these systems.
One final word of caution: When CCTV is used as a security system it presents the same wide range of possibility for liability exposure as any other security system. You must use proper contracts with subscribers. For standard CCTV sales/lease and access control administration contracts, try alarmcontracts.com.
Ken Kirschenbaum has been a recognized counsel to the alarm industry for 35 years and is principal of Kirschenbaum & Kirschenbaum, P.C. His team of attorneys, which includes daughter Jennifer, specialize in transactional, defense litigation, regulatory compliance and collection matters.
The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of SSI, and not intended as legal advice.