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Sunday, July 4, 2010

Dummy Cameras – To Use or Not

Recently one of my customers invited me to look at adding cameras to their existing video surveillance system, a system that we installed about a year ago. The surveillance system monitors key areas of a newly constructed building on their campus. This particular customer has been experiencing problems with thieves breaking into vehicles in their parking lot.

After reviewing the cost to add an additional camera to their system my customer asked if we provided dummy cameras. A dummy camera is a fake camera that looks like a real camera but does not contain any of the electronics and is not connected to the video surveillance system.

My response was this is something we don’t install and I sent the customer a link to an article about dummy cameras. This article highlighted the advantages of such cameras; cost and the deterrent effect of having these units in place. It also revealed the disadvantage; false sense of security and no video images that can be used as evidence.

I echoed the reasoning in the article and advised they consult their attorney before deploying such a system. To my surprise my customer responded that it was the local police department that recommended the deployment of the dummy cameras.

This got me to thinking what is the real issue here? If the police department is recommending the use of these units, perhaps the deterrent value outweighs the possibility of a lawsuit.

I spent several hours researching this topic looking for articles in which lawsuits related to a false sense of security due to a camera (real or fake) being installed. I could not find anything. I reviewed a number of forums asking the same question; site the cases where this has been an issue?

I reviewed the website of a well known attorney specializing in the security systems industry, Ken Kirschenbaum. I could not find an article or case that directly relates to this issue. Almost every article I read says the same thing; don’t install them for fear of the liability associated with this “false sense of security”.

Yet if this fear is so prevalent why are there so many companies selling these cameras? A quick Google search reveals numerous companies willing to sell you a dummy security camera. These devices are really inexpensive. If there were so many suits taking place one would think there wouldn’t be any demand for these types of devices.

My conclusions:

Dummy cameras may be an effective tool for deterring an unsophisticated thief. Most professionals can easily identify a real camera from a fake one. The blinking LED is a sure give away.

Don’t post signage that states for your security, or for your safety, or some other phrasing that may give people the belief the cameras (real or fake) are being constantly monitored.

Consult your attorney for their opinion.