Surveillance Camera News
(assorted press releases and news items May 2000)
A picture of profiling
REPUTABLE RETAIL STORES ARE SOMETIMES HIT WITH potentially costly lawsuits in which a
customer charges that store security used racial profiling in determining whom to monitor on surveillance
cameras. These allegations typically are made in the course of wrongful detainment suits involving minorities
who may or may not have shoplifted merchandise. In these cases, the plaintiff's attorney will obtain
surveillance videotape during discovery, and in viewing the video, the lawyer will perceive that minorities are
selected as surveillance subjects in disproportionate numhers as compared to the racial makeup of the store's
population of shoppers.
WHEN SUCH CLAIMS are made, even retailers with outstanding antidiscrimination policies and practices
may consider quietly settling the suit, particularly when the plaintiffs attorney threatens to take the allegations to
the media and damage the reputation of the business. These settlements, which may be in the range of
$100,000, may seem an easy way to end a lawsuit, but submitting to such tactics is a mistake that implies guilt
and encourages litigation in the future.
Companies that have wrongfully been accused of racial profiling should fight the charges in court. To do this
efFectively, the corporate security manager must give defense attorneys a crash course in surveillance
operations so that the company's lawyers know how security officers choose their targets and why the plaintiff
may have been monitored while in the store. Defense attorneys essentially need to understand that no one can
ascertain why a particular person is the subject of surveillance simply by viewing a few hours of the store's
Seeing is misleading. Despite the wellworn "truths" about pictures, such as "seeing is believing," and "pictures
don't lie,' a portion of surveillance videotape taken out of context can be misleading. Yet in many racial
profiling cases, the plaintiffs central evidence is videotape of a store's surveillance activities. And these
seemingly damning images are given added impact when backed up by testimony from a security expert. But
these so-called experts (in one case, such an "expert" turned out to be a law clerk) have typically done nothing
more than view the store's video, count the persons subjectively judged to be surveillance subjects, and list
the percentage of subjects by race.
There are several problems with using video as evidence of profiling. Security should make sure that the
company's defense attorneys are aware of each of these so that the defense team can help jurors see the real
First, experts for the plaintiff often fail to note any criteria they used in identifying subjects. For example, in one
case, a plaintiffs expert counted any minority captured on tape, even those who might have been caught in the
background while the cameras focused on a white suspect. In another case, security was monitoring the
activity of one African American male who was standing near three other minorities. The plaintiffs expert
counted all four men as under surveillance, thus boosting the ratio of minorities who appear to have been
monitored by store security.
Second, a general review of a few hours of videotape is not statistically significant and cannot validly be used
to draw any conclusions. The reviewer has no way of knowing why someone might have been targeted in the
first place-the person might have put something in his or her pocket just before security began recording, for
The security manager should explain to the defense attorney how the typical central station operates. It may be
helpful for the attorney to tour the store's monitoring station to see how and why certain people are targeted.
For example, in a typical large department store, the central station security officer must continuously monitor
between Zo and 30 small monitors at one time. One or two larger monitors are used to view and record only
the highest priority events.
In most cases, a person creating suspicion is first detected on one of the small monitors, which are not
recorded. By the time the officer switches the image to the larger monitor and begins recording, the subject
may no longer be acting suspiciously. Without understanding this normal situation, defense attorneys
themselves often cannot understand why innocent-appearing persons were selected as surveillance subjects.
They may erroneously believe the plaintifF has some legitimate grounds for the suit, and rather than mounting
an aggressive defense, they may suggest a setdement. Once the defense attorneys understand how security
surveillance works, they will be better able to challenge the veracity of any expert who claims to be able to
interpret such a video on a standalone basis.
Third, it's important for the defense attorney (and ultimately the jury to know that it is difficult for an officer to
even identify the race of a person on the monitor. An officer who is watching zo to 30 seven- to nine-inch
monitors-which are producing 36,000 to to 54,000 images per minute-is quickly scanning images for red flags.
Officers can barely see an individual's skin color on these small monitors, but instead are focusing on the
activity of the person-did the subject put something in his or her pocket, for example.
Security should also point out to the defense attorney that the person on the videotape is not necessarily the
individual under surveillance. For example, the camera might be faced on an employee suspected of theft,
not the customer who happens to be standing near the employee; or the camera might be focused on an area
into which the true suspect is expected to enter.
Selecting subjects. Defense attorneys and juries must also understand the criteria officers use to determine who
is monitored. An overview of the typical criteria follows.
Sensitive areas. Retail surveillance of ficers are trained to automatically monitor any customer who goes into
a high-risk area, such as the department that sells expensive and readily concealable electronic merchandise, as
long as there are no higher priority activities occurring elsewhere in the store.
Officers will also monitor customers who are shopping in parts of the store that have experienced excessive
losses in recent weeks. In many cases, the plaintiffs expert does not know that a certain department has
experienced shrinkage in recent weeks, leading security to tape everyone who goes into the department.
Instead, this expert draws conclusions that his or her client was monitored because of race. By understanding
why security is targeting a specific area of the store, the defense attorney can more effectively challenge the
plaintiff expert's conclusions.
Known problems. Retail security of$cers will routinely monitor and tape customers who have caused problems
in the store in the recent past. For example, individuals who are monitored might have been previously
apprehended in the store for shoplifting, or they might have engaged in suspicious activity during previous visits.
In other cases, security might closely monitor a former employee who left under bad circumstances or an ofF
duty current employee who is under investigation. An on-duty employee might be under surveillance because
of complaints of discourtesy or abusiveness toward customers.
In many cases in which employees are under surveillance, customers will be caught on tape inadvertently.
The defense attorney must know that it is not the customer who is being monitored-as the plaintiff might
claim-- but the employee.
Retail security officers will also monitor customers who match the description of a person who has reportedly
caused problems at neighboring retail establishments. For example, security often receives reports from other
retailers or the police about individuals who have committed crimes in the neighborhood. Police sketches or
verbal descriptions usually accompany these reports so that security can be on the lookout for this individual
should he or she enter the store.
Security may also get reports from other merchants during community meetings. The person under
surveillance may also match the description of someone the loss prevention department has been asked to
look out for, such as a stalker or an estranged spouse or partner of an employee.
Suspicious activity. A person may also become the subject of surveillance if they trigger certain red flags. For
example, officers will take notice of a customer who enters the store from a parking lot area carrying a bag
bearing the store's name or logo. The person might not be acting suspiciously, but experience tells the security
officer that the bag could be used for shoplifting or other theft schemes. For instance, a person might fill the
bag with items off the store shelves, claim to have purchased the merchandise during a previous visit, and try to
return the items for cash at the customer service counter. Security will be similarly watchful of anyone entering
the store with other items that could conceal merchandise, such as a backpack, a large purse, bulky clothing,
or a stroller.
Security is also trained to keep an eye out for individuals who display the body language of a person
contemplating shoplifting, such as continuously looking around to see whether they are being watched or toying
with a piece of merchandise for a long period of time.
Other individuals come under surveillance because they act in a manner that is highly unusual to loss
prevention professionals, but would not appear unusual to the uninitiated. For example, security would take
notice of a man who is viewing female wallets, or they may monitor a customer who appears to be acting dif
ferently after carrying an item out of view and returning without it.
Communication from staff. The store's sales personnel are also trained to look for anyone who might trigger
any of these red flags and to report their suspicions to the monitoring station. Similarly, sales personnel will
report customers suspected of credit card fraud, which would make them a subject of surveillance. The store
might also monitor a dissatisfied customer departing the store if there is a concern that the customer might
commit an act of vandalism. In addition, occasionally a conscientious store customer who observed suspicious
activity will alert a security officer and that will trigger surveillance.
Patterned behavior. Security officers are also trained to notice any pattern of behavior. If this pattern is
suspicious, this person would probably be monitored each time he or she entered the store. For example, the
person might handle merchandise for long periods or frequently come to the store to return quantities of
merchandise without receipts.
When loss prevention professionals take the initiative in explaining the impossibility of accurately interpreting
tapes used in support of so-called racial profiling cases, the defense attorney and a qualified defense expert
witness can more easily convince a jury that the plaintiff's premise is flawed, thus eliminating distortions and
allowing the matter to be judged on factual evidence alone. By aggressively defending spurious racial profiling
lawsuits, retailers can avoid paying for offenses they never committed, and they can ensure that their image
with customers will not be damaged.
Roger H. Schmedlen, CPP, CFE (certified fraud examiner), cII (certified international investigator), and MIPI
(member institute of professional investigators), is the president of Loss Prevention Concepts, Ltd., Hartland,
Michigan. He is a z57ear member of ASIS.
Copyright American Society for Industrial Security May 2000
Patients deserve trust not surveillance cameras
The recent exposure of Dr David Southall and his colleagues in a report from the NHS Executive (2000) has
once again highlighted issues of consent and personal freedom in health care. The report deals primarily with
the controversy surrounding Dr Southall's use of children in the clinical trials of experimental ventilator
equipment, where parents alleged that correct procedures were not followed in the procurement of consent
and that their children suffered long-term brain damage and even death.
However, the report has also highlighted the issue of Dr Southall's use of covert video surveillance to expose
cases of Munchausen's Syndrome by Proxy (MSP). Individuals with this complicated disorder obtain vicarious
gratification from inducing, or claiming, suffering in others which results in the involvement of hospitals and
medical staff. Commonly, the victims are children and the perpetrators their parents.
People suffering from MSP go to great lengths to get medical staff to perform unnecessary medical
procedures. Occasionally, as in the case of Beverly Allitt, it is the healthcare staff themselves who are involved.
MSP can be very serious as sufferers often attempt to induce symptoms in their victims by, for example,
poisoning or partial suffocation.
Dr Southall felt that some of the children under his care were victims of MSP and invited the parents and the
children into hospital where they were left alone and secretly filmed (Boseley, 2000). Dr Southall's methods
were effective: between 1986 and 1994, 34 convictions for child abuse were obtained, although many parents
were outraged, complaining that they had been wrongly accused of MSP (Laurance, 2000).
However, effective or not, covert operations such as Dr Southall's have no place in the hospital environment.
The basic principle at stake is that of trust. Dr Southall was effectively spying on the general public. If such an
activity was allowed to become widespread, it would destroy any possibility of therapeutic relationships
between healthcare professionals and their patients.
Patients have to trust doctors and nurses; their lives are literally in their hands. This element of trust is
completely shattered if patients feel that at any time they could be observed for evidence of illegal behaviour.
If doctors are at all suspicious that illegal activity is taking place, including the abuse of children, it should be
reported to the proper authorities to be investigated by people who are trained to detect criminal behaviour
and oversee the welfare of children. Hospitals are not police stations and doctors are not criminal detectives.
Assistant Editor, British Journal of Nursing
Boseley S (2000) NHS on trial over secret baby tests. The Guardian 9 May: 3
Laurance J (2000) Parents were misled over hospital trials that killed premature babies.
The Independent 8 May: 1
NHS Executive (2000) West Midlands Regional Office Report of a Review of the Research Framework in
North Staffordshire Hospital NHS Trust. NHS Executive, Leeds
Copyright Mark Allen Publishing Ltd. May 25-Jun 7, 2000
Big Brother Is Watching -- On Trains, Streets, in Schools
The San Francisco Chronicle
FINAL; Vol. 332, Issue: 30882; EDITORIAL Section
GETTING TOUGH on crime has taken a new high-tech turn. Those who claim to sell safer streets now
have a new product on the market -- it is a high-tech video surveillance camera. Today's purveyors of safety
are claiming to clean up the streets but it's at a price, and the price is our right to privacy. The proposal, to
install high- tech video cameras, is gaining in popularity, from commuter trains in the Bay Area, too rural
school districts in Mississippi, and all the way to Times Square in New York City. Unfortunately, this new
product is not all that it claims to be, and in fact there is no evidence that cities and school districts that are
buying this equipment will make us any safer, but there's plenty of proof that the right to privacy, the right to
be left alone, will surely be diminished under the watchful eyes of highly sophisticated snooping devices.
Today's high-tech entrepreneurs are selling new and improved equipment to spy on people -- people
walking on the street, passengers on BART trains or even students going to their high school lockers. This is
not the stationary video camera you've grown accustomed to at your local 7-Eleven store. What is being
marketed now, as the fix-all solution to crime, are cameras that are able to zoom in from more than 100
yards away and read the print on political flyers being distributed on the public sidewalk, even if it's dark
outside. These are cameras that also tape your conversation, even if you're whispering. Indeed, the new
video cameras, which are referred to by the manufacturer as CCTV (Closed Circuit Television), have the
capability of peering through the windows of private homes and businesses.
If you're starting to feel a little bit safer at the potential to secretly ferret out lawbreakers (after all, you've got
nothing to hide, right?), a little look at the recent experience with the current surveillance technology is
So far, there is no indication that CCTV is a fierce crime fighter. In New York City, after an expensive
18-month experiment, the cameras were removed, having resulted in only 10 arrests. A more
comprehensive study in Britain found that the use of CCTV cameras provided no deterrent to criminal
activity. However, the study did show that the cameras certainly were not left idle. In fact, the surveillance
cameras and the team of in-studio staff responsible for monitoring, were directly engaged in violations of civil
The study found that the surveillance cameras had a discriminating eye, focusing almost exclusively on
people of color, gays and young people. In addition, the British authorities used CCTV to track the
movement of individuals and to monitor public meetings, marches and demonstrations.
In New York City, a lawsuit was recently brought by unions against the City University of New York,
where a campus security director conceded that a surveillance camera had been concealed in a student
meeting room to monitor campus political groups.
Also in New York, we saw the extensive video monitoring of the Million Youth March in Harlem. Police
recording of people exercising their constitutional right to speak can have a chilling and intimidating effect.
Ordinary people may shy away from political activities if they believe they will be monitored in this way.
The potential to violate the right to privacy, a right deeply valued by Americans and guaranteed directly to
Californians under our state constitution, is threatened by the growing use of surveillance cameras. Federal
and state laws have long created criminal penalties for illegal wiretapping, and in order to wiretap in the first
place, law enforcement is required to show individualized suspicion in order to obtain a warrant.
Yet in many ways, CCTV is an even more intrusive form of search than audio wiretapping. CCTV can and
has been grossly abused by recording the intimate conduct of citizens and marking innocent people for
tracking solely on the basis of racial, gender or other characteristics. No other technique can record in such
graphic detail personal and private behavior.
Yet this is a technique that is not explicitly controlled by any law; even wiretapping is subject to greater legal
restrictions. The growing sophistication of and power of technology is outpacing already inadequate privacy
and criminal laws.
Laws analogous to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which prohibits unauthorized snooping into
electronic communications, are needed to protect us from the dangerous and watchful eye of Big Brother, as
the new technology creates an almost Orwellian potential for surveillance and invites abuse.
Police will analyse hours of videotape to identify May Day riot ringleaders
Jason Bennetto and Andrew Mullins
The Independent - London
FOREIGN; Vol. 332, Issue: 30884; News Section
SCOTLAND YARD yesterday began a trawl through thousands of hours of video tape to identify a further
200 violent demonstrators and their leaders involved in the May Day riots in central London. Police camera
crews and photographers, many hidden, filmed the protest. In addition, dozens of surveillance cameras will
be examined. An operation has been set up to analyse the film and photos, identify suspects and make
arrests. Nearly 100 people have been arrested in connection with the disorder and the first offenders
appeared in court yesterday. Police believe another 200 people were involved in criminal actions.
Photos of suspects will be posted on the internet, printed on posters and published in newspapers in the
hope members of the public will recognise them. Police will pay special attention to demonstrators filmed
with flags and mobile telephones, who detectives believe were orchestrating some of the violence. Deputy
Assistant Commissioner Michael Todd said: "The disorder was obviously highly organised by a small
number of people who were co-ordinating events ... identifying, arresting and bringing to justice those
responsible has already started. We will do everything we can to ensure that these people are found."
Analysis of surveillance material follows a similar operation after rioting in the City of London and at Euston
station last year. A lesson learnt then was the importance of obtaining photographic evidence. A failed
attempt by police to force media to hand over pictures and film has resulted in the greater deployment of
police camera crews. Demonstrators rounded up on Monday were checked against photos of suspects still
wanted from the previous rioting in London. Veterans of violent protests use a variety of hats and changes of
clothes to disguise themselves.
Yesterday Scotland Yard said officers stood back while demonstrators committed low- level vandalism on
May Day, for fear of provoking violence. But law-breakers would be prosecuted, the spokesman said.
Activists from Reclaim the Streets, one of the protest organisers, distanced themselves from the violence and
said of the defacing of the Cenotaph: "We do not necessarily celebrate the generals and the ruling class that
send people to their deaths in order to protect the privileges and control of the few. The abhorrence of
sending millions of men to their deaths in the trenches dwarfs the stupidity of any possible slogan on any
possible piece of stone."
Those who appeared in court yesterday in connection with the rioting included a British Telecom telephonist,
Richard Stephens, 28, of Bristol, who was jailed for 14 days after admitting using threatening words or
Alan McAlve, 38, from Rochester, Kent, was jailed for 90 days for using threatening words or behaviour.
Jan Erlstedt, 31, a designer from Slough, Berkshire, who admitted obstructing the highway in the Strand,
was fined pounds 100.
(Copyright 2000 Newspaper Publishing PLC)
Hoteliers stand behind increased use of CCTV
Hotel & Motel Management
ISSN: 0018-6082; Vol. 215 No. 8; p. 56-58
The use of dosed-circuitTV is on the rise in the lodging industry as hotels are installing the
systems for a variety of reasons, including crime deterrence, employee security and customer satisfaction.
The Regal Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles installed four CCTV cameras in the early 1980s,
upgraded to 24 new cameras in 1998 and then added eight cameras last year.
"Our existing CCTV system was antiquated. We only had four black-and-white cameras, and the system
did not serve our purposes," said Richard Foisy, director of security at the Regal Biltmore.
The 24 color cameras monitor public and back of house areas. The cameras are focused on meeting
rooms, the kitchen, freezers, the employee entrance area, the front desk and lobby, the parking garage,
the main galleria, ballrooms and the sports bar.
Foisy said hotel executives were happy with the results of the initial 24 cameras and decided to add
eight cameras to watch over coolers, the liquor-storage area and the gold service-place settings, which
have been a part of the historic hotel since 1923.
"We want to provide the most secure environment for our guests and employees," Foisy said.
"The cameras are reassuring to them. We explained to employees that we are not trying to
monitor their work habits, but to ensure their safety and security." He said the hotel posted
signs in the back-entrance area to make sure employees and others know that there is 24-hour
The cameras are visible "if you look for them," and Foisy said he considers their visibility an
enhancement to the system because they will encourage crooks to go elsewhere. Closed-circuit
TVs often are used to monitor back-of-house operations, including employees' entrances.
The cameras have helped apprehend theft suspects and also have been useful in slip-and-fall cases.
In one such case, the camera showed that a guest was gazing up at the art deco work on the ceiling
rather than looking at the steps she was descending.
The cameras also have cut pilfering by employees, which Foisy said is not a bigger problem at the
Biltmore than it is at any large hotel.
"We have almost 700 rooms and employ about 700 people," said Foisy, a retired police lieutenant from
Fullerton, Calif. "It is a very high visibility hotel. The five past presidents all were here either as speakers
or guests." It also is a favorite place for Academy Awards nominees to stay, and it has hosted Grammy
Securiry watches two monitors 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Each monitor can display 16, eight,
four or a single camera at once. Their system is being rented fiom and was installed by CamEra of St.
Petersburg, Fla., a marketer of CCTV systems.
Burges Jokhi, owner of the Wingate Inn Atlanta/Buckhead, had a CCTV system installed in his
100-room property, which opened in February. He has JVC cameras pointed at the front desk, the lobby,
three exit doors, under the canopy of the entrance to see cars and license plates, and over the swimming pool.
"The cameras provide peace of mind for us and for our guests," he said. "We don't have lifeguards at our pool,
so we want to make sure adults are monitoring kids. It's also for liability reasons."
Monitors are located in the back office, the general manager's office and the owner's office. All of the doors are
key-card installed, except the front desk. He said they plan to install a dial-up system to remotely access the
camera through the Internet from anywhere in the world in real time. "The purpose of the Internet is to give
me a greater comfort level. I'm not here 24 hours a day, but I can still check in and make sure guests are being
taken care of," Jokhi said. "When I can't sleep at night, I can dial in. If I work from home or fm traveling, I can
monitor through the Internet."
Add customer satisfaction to the list of reasons CCTV is used at Wingate Inn Tampa North, according to
Dave Larson, managing partner. The 85-room property opened in late summer 1999, and the CCTV system
was installed one month later at the request of frontdesk personnel who wanted it for the feeling of security it
provides, especially after hours.
"We are in the lowest crime area in Tampa and have very good police protection," Larson said. "The police,
who do community outreach, even recommended we install the system." But the system also improves customer
service. "We look up at the monitor in our office and if we see a crowd at the front desk, we can jump up and help
out," Larson said.
Many upscale hotels want to watch their front-desk staff to ensure customers are being handled politely quickly and
according to their specifications, said Karen Allinder national sales manager for CamEra.
By Bruce Adams
H&MM SENIOR EDITOR
Copyright Advanstar Communications, Inc. May 1, 2000