Managing Your Security System (Bonus!)

Before Crime Occurs

Ensure your equipment is up to snuff. Nothing is worse than having a crime committed against you or your business, and then finding that your surveillance equipment recorded either nothing at all, or unusable footage. This happens all the time — but the reasons might surprise you.

Step 1: Perform a Site Assessment

While today's video surveillance equipment is extremely reliable, there are other factors that prevent a surveillance system from doing its job … and they are usually very avoidable.

Here are some of the more common reasons:

  1. Equipment has failed due to voltage spikes or lightning strikes
  2. Camera lens was dirty or unfocused
  3. Camera had been knocked in the wrong direction
  4. Recorder memory was full, and the overwrite feature was turned off
  5. Persons committing the crime disabled the surveillance equipment


When a crime does occur, you'll have a lot on your mind … and time is absolutely critical when it comes to catching the criminal.

It's wise to have taken the following steps, BEFORE crime occurs :

  1. Make sure you, and at least one backup person, are familiar with all DVR operations
  2. Practice offloading video
  3. Have blank media on hand
  4. Have a notepad & permanent marker nearby the recorder

Before the police arrive

Step 1: Perform a Site Assessment

1. Get a still shot — When the police arrive on the scene, the first thing they'll ask for is a description of the suspect(s). This is where your surveillance gear's usefulness starts to shine.

An eyewitness description of suspects is generally very poor; even trained police officers have a difficult time giving accurate descriptions. So don't rely solely on what you or others saw, freeze frame an image of the suspect (print the images if possible) and make specific notes on what the video shows.

A speedy and accurate description of the suspect(s) is the single biggest contributor to apprehension.

2. Export proprietary video — Most security DVRs will export two digital video types, a generic format such as AVI and a proprietary format. Generic formats are useful for easy review on PC's.

However, police need to both review the video as well as validate the video's authenticity - and most proprietary formats address both needs.

3. Export more than the crime footage — When exporting video, typically all that is needed is the video showing the criminal act. However, it is commonly useful to include video both before and after the crime – as many suspects will first plot out their crime and/or return to the scene to witness the results of their crime.

4. Mark the copy — Once you have exported video onto a DVD, CD, SD card or USB drive, give it a permanent identifying mark. For example, write “Exported XXhour, MM/DD/YYYY, your initials” on the medium so that it is never confused or questioned.

5. The recorder stays — Usually, if you can provide the police with a good export video of the crime, your recording equipment can remain on-site. This can be extremely important, as many criminals will strike again if not apprehended, and others will know if you are now unprotected.

If your DVR does not provide exports, then the police will likely need to take the DVR for evidence.

Step 1: Perform a Site Assessment

After the police leave

1. Make a copy for yourself — Your personal review of events may uncover details that law enforcement would never recognize as significant. Review of footage should be done on a copy — not the original hard drive.

If your DVR does not provide an export and police have taken the DVR for evidence, it is a good idea to at least dub footage onto a DVD recorder or even a VCR.

2. Protect the hard drive — The drive contains the original evidence and you should guard it. At a minimum, archive the events of concern onto a separate portion of the hard drive.

Even better, replace the hard drive and store it in a fireproof safe. If you do opt to replace the hard drive, be sure to follow procedures in the records manual or contact a technical support representative.

3. Don't share the evidence — Once you've exported footage, it can be very tempting to share it with family, friends and even the media. However, depending the severity of the incident, this could jeopardize prosecution.