There are many factors to consider when thinking about adding security cameras to a multifamily community. The process is not as cut and dry as purchasing the equipment and installing it. Few people understand, or are aware of, what it takes to not only maintain a camera system but to ensure that it is a functioning asset that will assist in making the community thrive.
The following are six questions to consider before committing to installing a camera system. Without being able to answer these questions, it would be wise to reconsider what is expected from the cameras in the first place.
Is there a defined need or purpose for the camera system?
There must be a clear objective for adding cameras, not because the property down the street did. Cameras can assist with multiple issues many property owners face, such as an abundance of criminal and nuisance activity, vendor or employee oversight, asset protection, evidence for lease violations or prosecution, or finally, as a simple deterrent. If any of these are not an issue for a given property, maybe cameras are not needed. It could be a better decision to improve other areas within the community.
What are the expectations of the camera system?
Cameras are not the magic bullet answer to all issues a property may face. It is best to have realistic expectations of what the cameras can and will do. The property may only need general oversight. In some instances, this is enough. However, some properties with higher rates of criminal activity will benefit from the addition of cameras that can gather identification shots of vehicles or persons. In the end, a property has to decide what is sufficient for its operational needs.
What are the ideal locations for the cameras?
In a perfect world, a property could install enough cameras to cover the entire community. Of course, there are many factors that make this impossible, so a decision needs to be made as to what the areas of concern are. The most typical camera locations include parking lots, entry/exit points, common areas (playgrounds, pools, laundry facilities, and community rooms), or choke points. Choke points are created by a property design that force vehicle or pedestrian traffic to flow through a certain area. Cameras in these areas are very helpful in gathering identification shots.
What is the budget?
Money drives all business decisions, so this is probably the most important question to answer. Owners need to know that they will get what they pay for. Purchasing cheap equipment means spending more money on the back end. Camera systems are not a one-time initial investment. There are warranty issues, funds for ongoing maintenance and repair, degradation of image quality, and recording costs associated with DVRs and licensing. Finally, a camera system should be thought of as a 5-year capital expense. Many people do not think about this, but there is a shelf life for electronic equipment. Be aware that it will need to be replaced at some point and time.
Is the property conducive for a camera system?
A property needs to have clear sight lines for surveillance to be effective. Building architecture and layout has to be considered. Landscaping can present issues. Trees need to be trimmed yearly to ensure lines of sight. Good lighting is a must. The best camera in the world is not going to be effective if it is only capturing a pitch-black parking lot. Finally, do all the buildings needing cameras have house power? If not, expect a significant bill to install it. Cameras do not work without power. It is not advised to use power from individual units, as the camera system is now at the mercy of a resident paying their bill.
Is there anyone on site, or within the company, that can manage and administer the system?
One thing many do not consider is time cost. Does the property have someone who can perform daily health, focus, and recording checks? What happens when the equipment fails? Can the property staff correct it? Is someone available to work with the police when a video event occurs? Who will perform the video reviews? The time cost of reviewing footage is significant. When a property manager has to use half of their day reviewing hours of footage, who is leasing apartments? This assumes that they have the ability and know how to operate the equipment.
Answering these six questions can help a property decide if a camera system will be beneficial, as well as prepare them for what to expect after it is installed. Watchtower Security provides answers to all these questions within their fully managed video surveillance systems.
Cameras systems are an asset with unlimited potential, but they do require constant attention and upkeep. Before a property can realize this potential, they must be willing to do what is necessary to give the camera system a chance to be successful.