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In this week's Wakatipu Echo, senior intelligence analyst Senior Constable Sean Drader, of Queenstown police, says there is value in good CCTV footage and gives tips on how to capture the best shots of alleged offenders.
In my job I get to see a lot of closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage, and trust me, a lot of it is very boring, but you do learn some things by doing this. I thought I'd take the opportunity to tell you what works and what is useful, because if you are a local business owner or organisation, you may be considering installing a system or improving the effectiveness of what you already have.
In this small town a good image of an offender is often identified by the public with the help of our media, and is often identified very quickly.
The quality of the image is the main factor.
The best shots are at head level, not looking down from a corner a long way away with a wide-angle lens. A level view of a person's face can be achieved as they enter a shop or workplace. There is usually a bottleneck where everybody enters and leaves and you can anticipate where to place the camera.
Have a look next time you enter a shop and you will notice these are becoming commonplace.
My recommendation would be to have an ID camera as the most important part of the system, otherwise whatever else you may do might not be worthwhile. An ID camera may cost a little more than the other cameras, and be a little larger.
Some people try to compress image quality by reducing resolution and frame sizes, but the image can be very small and hard to identify when this happens, so I would suggest aiming for the best possible resolution with the largest frame size and least compression.
Another important issue is whether you will be able to operate your own software.
Many systems are computer-based and range from simple to use, to fiendish or impossible. Some employers limit use by their staff, which can delay access to footage for us.
In businesses where theft is rare, sometimes weeks go by while an expert is paid to download footage.
Modern systems should be easy to use, and a jpeg image can be captured and emailed to us quickly. The best systems can output a movie file which we place on Facebook, if it is suitable, and movies are a much better medium for recognition than a still image.
Our town CCTV is being redesigned at the moment and should be extremely useful when it is built.
Maybe you'll have an opportunity to review your CCTV system today and see whether it is meeting your needs, or is just an expensive deterrent. If you'd like any independent advice we'd be happy to help.