“Smile! You’re on camera!”
When most people think of security cameras, they tend to think of the recordings that provide evidence after a crime is committed. Mobile security camera towers definitely provide this function, but the recordings themselves are only a part of the service these units offer. One of the biggest reasons mobile security units are so effective is their ability to deter crimes in the first place.
But why is that? Does the mere presence of parking lot camera units actually affect behavior?
According to the results of the ACCESS Taskforce case study, the answer is a resounding YES.
The ACCESS Taskforce
Recently, LiveView Technologies (LVT) partnered with the Loss Prevention Research Council (LPRC) and two U.S. cities to form the Alliance of Companies and Communities to Enhance Safety and Security (ACCESS) Taskforce. LVT deployed 49 Live Units across Opelika, AL, and Paducah, KY, for a six-month period, with both cities working with the LPRC to identify crime trends and examine the effect of the LVT Units.
The results across the two cities speak for themselves:
- Opelika saw a 40% drop in shoplifting.
- Paducah saw a 54% drop in burglaries.
- Both cities saw a 15% reduction in property crime and a 10–13% overall reduction in crime.
It wasn’t just about recording and catching crime after the fact; it was about stopping crimes before they were committed. Using past research and study results, LPRC came up with a model that explains the psychology of mobile security camera towers as deterrents: the See-Get-Fear model.
The See-Get-Fear Model
Before committing a crime, every would-be perpetrator examines the situation (whether they do it intentionally or subconsciously) to see if the crime will be worth the risk. Two major factors are at play here: the difficulty of committing the crime and the reward of that crime.
The same principle applies to all levels of “crime,” so to illustrate, consider the classic kid-sneaking-cookies-before-dinner scenario:
If the cookies are on the top shelf of the pantry, out of reach, they are much harder to grab than if they were sitting on the counter. This makes it less tempting to simply snag one (hence the difficulty level would be different). If the child’s parent were in the same room versus outside doing yardwork, it would affect the perceived risk level. The reward in this case would be the cookie itself; if it were a flavor of cookie the child didn’t like, it would be less of a temptation.
The placement of enterprise surveillance systems doesn’t change the reward of the crime (which in this case would likely be the material goods in the store), but it does affect the perceived risk level if three conditions are met:
- The would-be perpetrator sees the mobile security unit.
- They get its intended purpose.
- They fear the consequences of its use.
While a camera can still record and provide evidence if it’s hidden, the camera won’t work as a deterrent because the would-be criminal won’t even know it’s there. If the camera is clearly visible, however, the would-be criminal is now able to factor its presence into the risk-reward calculation of the crime.
It’s one thing for a camera to be clearly visible; it’s another for the would-be perpetrator to understand its purpose. If, for example, you disguise your camera to look like something else but you set it out in plain view, the person won’t know to factor it into the risk-reward calculation because they won’t “get” that it’s there to record them committing a crime.
If, however, it’s very clearly a camera in plain view that is pointed right at the place they want to rob, they’ll understand that they will be recorded while committing their crime and someone might even catch them in the act of committing the crime.
The camera and its purpose might be as clear as day, but if the would-be perpetrator doesn’t believe its use will lead to any real consequences, it won’t matter. This is where proper prosecution and openly working with security and law enforcement becomes crucial. All the video evidence in the world won’t do any good if it’s never used.
But if it’s clear that this camera is in active use and law enforcement might only be minutes away, the risk of the crime suddenly becomes much less appealing.
LVT Units and their role in See-Get-Fear
LVT Units are vandal-resistant cameras for durable protection in parking lots. They do the job of recording and alerting well, but perhaps their most valuable asset is that they check all the boxes of the See-Get-Fear model as the ideal deterrent:
Unlike a tiny black dome subtly placed on the shadowy corner of a building, an LVT Unit is hard to miss. While it doesn’t take up more space than a parking lot stall, a fully deployed LVT Unit is the length and width of an average car but with large solar panels and a 22-foot mount.
They aren’t just big; they’re bold. LVT Units are decorated in obvious law enforcement colors (making the “get” portion just that much more obvious) and can be equipped with sirens, loudspeakers, flashing lights, and flood lights.
LVT Units are typically placed in parking lots, making them the first thing you see before you enter a store and the last thing you see as you leave. They send a clear message: This business takes security and safety seriously, so behave.
Interested in an LVT Unit to deter criminals at your business? Contact an LVT representative today for more information.