“Surveillance Cameras”

One of the biggest benefits of understanding hostile planning is that it helps take much of the guesswork out of security solutions. As had been explained in previous articles, Attacks don’t simply come out of nowhere because attackers don’t spring out of thin air.  Hostile actions are predicated on hostile planning, which includes hostile surveillance.

With this idea in mind, it seems quite odd that the enormous security camera sector – an industry that ironically contains the term “Surveillance Cameras” – knows so little about hostile surveillance, and about the large role the industry can play in combating it.

To be fair, security cameras do have many useful applications that go far beyond security, but what’s so surprising is that in the majority of properties, even some with quite serious security concerns, there appears to be a huge gap between what security camera systems can do to address hostile surveillance, and what they actually end up doing.

I keep encountering highly secured facilities with highly professional security teams – teams that know quite a bit about hostile surveillance, but that have to operate security camera systems that had been installed beforehand with absolutely no regard to hostile planning.

Just to make matters clear, security cameras by themselves cannot be relied upon to prevent criminal activity, much less hostile planning, but they still have some important roles to play. Even in cases where the only role that has been given to a security camera system is an after-the-fact one – helping to understand what happened and helping to compile evidence – what can be more important than understanding how an attack was planned, if the goal is to prevent the next one? How can you hope to record, let alone to understand, hostile surveillance if security cameras aren’t even pointed in the right direction to record any of it?

The field of security cameras has been advancing at an amazing rate, and anyone who’s had the privilege of attending a security convention in recent years (ASIS, ISC, etc) can attest to the staggering amount of highly advanced systems that are on the market. But even the most advanced system, connected to the highest quality cameras on the market, has very little preventative value if an installer doesn’t know where to point the cameras in the first place.

In much the same way, even the most advanced weapon system will be quite useless in the hands of someone who doesn’t know where to point it. No amount of megapixels, or storage capacity or AI analytics or programmable, multi-zoned, fully integrated IP capabilities can overcome the basic problem of not knowing where cameras should even be pointed.

Too often it seems that security camera technicians install cameras with about as much foresight and security understanding as that of electricians installing lighting systems. In point of fact, the word “coverage” is often used by both fields in order to unfortunately describe much the same thing – the simple blanketing of areas with either lighting or footage, or both. Actually, the word “coverage” should probably not even be used to describe what security cameras do, since unlike lighting, which emanates from the device and “covers” an area, footage goes the opposite direction  – emanating from the area and flowing towards the camera.

And just to make sure that I don’t come across as some old fashioned security-type complaining about “toys and gadgets”, let me assure you that the opposite is the case. I have a great deal of respect for this important industry, and know very well, from years of experience, just how effective it can be when its true potential is properly utilized. In fact, HighCom Security Services (the company I work for) has an entire security systems department, and I often get to work closely with it. 

My point here is not to denigrate this industry but rather to encourage it – from installers, technicians and security directors, through system designers, manufacturers and sales representatives, to upgrade the industry by learning about hostile planning, and to unleash the true capabilities of this important sector.

Protection Circle_avater_due i Ikon

Learn more about this subject—and many others—in my master class on Hostile Activity Prevention. Utilizing Israeli know-how and delivered by me, Ami Toben, this online course teaches actionable, time-tested methods of prevention, detection and disruption of hostile attacks.

15 thoughts on ““Surveillance Cameras”

  1. Another great article Ami.

    I have found during site security surveys that the CCTV infrastructure coverage tends to concentrate upon areas of ingress, egress, vulnerable points, public areas and perimeters. All are useful areas of observation but as you say, the outer ring of security (surveillance observation positions) are not addressed. Your correct in saying that education in the hostile planning process will help. So why isn’t it being applied ? My view is, that there are so few people within the commercial security industry that have the in depth expertise and experience of the hostile planning process and in particular surveillance that this important aspect of security planning is ignored. Any company providing security that does not have a surveillance specialist working for or with them are failing to provide the full security package. I would suggest they find one.

    1. Thank you, Gary. I could not agree more.
      As for why so few companies apply this knowledge, I think it has something to do with the lack of demand for it, which results from people’s (clients, etc) lack of understanding about criminal activity. For the majority of the population, I find that criminal activity, and how it is planned and executed, is largely a mystery. This is why there is so much guesswork about how to combat it unfortunately, and why so many security camera installers can still satisfy clients with cameras that record irrelevant information.
      Because of this, I try as much as I can to educate those who will end up being the end users, rather than the suppliers. I believe the solution will ultimately be a demand driven one – clients demanding that security solutions be preventative, and target hostile planning, rather than suppliers pushing these solutions on their clients. It’s very difficult to sell people something they do not understand, and subsequently don’t know that they need. This is one of the reasons why I try to explain criminal activity and preventative security in the most basic way (with as little professional jargon as I can) because preaching to the converted security professionals is never as important as educating those who do not yet know this stuff, and who might be the end user clients that should be demanding preventative solutions.

  2. Ami, In your series of articles about Hostile surveillance, there is where you recommended the use of random photographing so as at least to scare off a hostile surveillance operative. Recently we had a security meeting with my Administration manager. I suggested that its high time that we bought digital/video cameras for that purpose. The gentleman dismissed my idea that i actually benefited from an expert like you, that he is pushing to procure CCTV cameras. Surely as you have put it, other than the surveillance cameras helping in the “Post Mort-em” how can they prevent hostile surveillance and attack. The west gate mall attack in Kenya, had those cameras but did not prevent the Al shabab from attacking the mall and killing as many people as they could. Ami, how can you help us so as our lay managers to understand our security recommendations?

    1. Thank you for your comment, Pascal, and for trying to fight the good fight.
      The first thing I will say about educating people is that it takes allot of time and patients. Well entrenched minds do not change overnight.
      The first thing to understand about security camera is, as I said in the article, they cannot be relied upon to deter attacks on their own. Cameras can be used in conjunction with other means of deterrence, and there are a few ways of doing this.
      First, depending on the type of coverage and manpower you have, if the cameras are monitored in real time – and most importantly, if the cameras are pointed in the right places (vantage points) – you can show a strong physical response to anyone spending a long time in a vantage point. You can, for example, politely engage a person in a vantage point and, politely, let them know that you have noticed them on the camera (point it out to them) and that you were wondering if you could help them or if they were looking for something, etc. Something like this can have a very strong deterring effect. Other ways to use cameras for deterrence is, with the help of some advanced analytics, something that is getting more and more affordable these days, to program the system to look for and notify you if it detect individuals that exhibit any behaviors that are consistent with hostile surveillance. This will give you a chance to engage these individuals – politely – and once again, show them that someone is watching them and noticing what they are doing.
      Keep in mind that the camera footage you saw of the attackers in the West Gate mall was taken INSIDE the mall. At that point, as the attack was already occurring, and since the attackers were very interested in getting their “message” out, why would they fear the cameras at that point? The internal cameras are simply recording what they want everyone to see. Had there been enough cameras outside, on the other hand, or had the terrorist been recorded and engaged BEFORE the attack, as they were still trying to prepare it, their feelings about the cameras would probably be quite different.
      Finally, as I wrote in the article, even if an attack was not prevented, having your cameras pointed at the right locations to record the hostile surveillance that preceded the attack, you could at least know what to look for in order to prevent the next attack, and not allow history to repeat itself. I know this last option might sound a bit bleak, but it’s better – far better – than nothing.
      As for good ways to convince your superiors to authorize more preventative measures, I find that one relatively effective way of doing this is to put it in writing (emails, etc) that failure to provide these preventative measures puts the facility at risk, and that the liability for this risk is assumed by the person who is arguing against these measures, or holding back their funding. Once you put it that way, and once there is a paper trail documenting who has declined to take these important preventative measures, and is therefore liable for any future security incident, you might find people a bit more amenable, and more willing to do the important job they are supposed to do. I know this sounds a bit nasty, but this is nowhere nearly as nasty as an attack would be. Getting a vaccine injection might sting a little, but it is way way better than finding out how it feels to get a deadly disease.

      1. You guy Ami, I wish you knew how much gratitude i feel for all that you have been passing over for us and the vulnerable part of the world to benefit. The way you articulate every piece of your writing and or reply to advice, puts you at the Professor level in your field. The gospel through knowledge that God gave you that your are spreading about how to fight terror, even God knows that you are doing a wonderful job to mankind. You are a Pastor in your field. Indeed i will pick 95% as you have articulated it and politely put it across to my boss leaving out the “liability” part. For us Africans of course am not racist, the truth is always bitter and can easily get fired for putting it across however much positive it is! the other part that appear challenging i will leave out. It’s quite challenging in this part of the developing world but am so sure that the gentleman will feel a bit challenged by the professional articulation and is likely to respond positively and allows the purchase of hand held cameras.

  3. Hi Ami, in your reply on November 2, 2013 you wrote this “Other ways to use cameras for deterrence is, with the help of some advanced analytics, something that is getting more and more affordable these days, to program the system to look for and notify you if it detect individuals that exhibit any behaviors that are consistent with hostile surveillance”. What is advanced analytics? My organization i work with is planning to procure and install surveillance cameras. Would wish to advise them on ” advanced analytics BUT i don’t understand it myself.

    1. Hi Pascal.
      As I am not a tech guy, I will have a hard time explaining the exact details of this, but since our company has a systems department, I do know a few things about it. In general, systems like this can be programmed to define specific zones, and look for certain things. What kind of things? Things like sudden movement, lack of movement, facial recognition over time, and many many other parameters that can be quite useful for surveillance detection.
      Here are some links that you might find helpful:




  4. Security camera systems are an affordable way to reduce robberies and other crimes.. Video cameras range in prices and sizes and rely on user needs and whether your require color or white and black.It is a powerful crime-fighting tool … Police operational experience and various research shows that it deters and detects crime and helps secure convictions. It also reduces fear of crime … We remain committed to the use of CCTV in helping to make communities feel safer.

  5. Ami thanks for sharing this valuable article relating with CCTV and SD. I have worked many times installing/configuring CCTV systems for small business and corporations in Mèxico. Many clients want to check and monitor the main door and parking areas but they do not value the importance of outer exterior (red zone: stationary surveillance positions). All attacks are preceded by surveillance, starting in the outer exterior and side streets, I understand this situation,because I was a surveillance investigator, working a lot of single handed mobile surveillance and my criteria was never place parking in or around protected areas by CCTV or security guards checking outer perimeter the farther stake out position the better for me.

    I think that in the next CCTV security expo in Mèxico as well as the united states,it must participate preparing public speak and conference about “Hostile planning process” detection and advantage of CCTV applied to the private sector :
    -Small business
    -Jewelry stores
    -residencial vips areas.

    These conference or seminars for security consultants or professional CCTV companies.

Leave a Reply to eagleinvestigationsCancel reply