Are you relying too much on video surveillance?

You may have heard about a recent smash and grab raid on a Hong Kong luxury watch store (link in Chinese) by a gang of three robbers in the morning of August 17th, 2013. Arriving at 6 am, the robbers smashed the glass door at the main entrance of the store using 12 pound sledgehammers, before smashing the display cabinets in the store’s retail area. In twenty minutes, the gang was able to leave with 246 luxury watches, worth a total of 10 million Hong Kong Dollars.


What you might not know about this shocking incident is that could have been prevented with better security design.


Though the store was fully monitored by video surveillance, it also had several major security vulnerabilities. The first was that the cabinets used to display the watches were assembled using standard glass, not the extra thick glass typically recommended for a luxury retail store. Moreover, the luxury goods should have been placed in a safe or strong room after opening hours rather than left in the shop displays.

Poorly planned security - a cautionary tale

Robbery aftermath: what happens when you just use video surveillance and neglect other security systems
Robbery aftermath: what happens when you just use video surveillance and neglect other security systems

One of the most significant vulnerabilities, however, was that the store’s alarms were incorrectly configured. Local police were apparently instructed to respond to alarm incidents within 3 minutes of receiving an alert. If they had been notified in time, they may have been able to prevent the thieves from escaping.


So what lessons can we draw from this? First of all, because security teams tend to focus on video surveillance as the main security precaution for a site, they tend to neglect equally important subsystems such as alarms and access control.


If these other systems are not designed properly, you will miss out on crucial capabilities that video surveillance alone cannot provide. Remember, alarm notifications and access control system breach notifications can alert security managers to security incidents instantly, via SMS and other means. When these systems are integrated with video surveillance systems, security managers can also monitor incidents as they happen and respond immediately.


So don't forget about alarms and other systems!

If you are just relying on video surveillance to meet your security needs, you might not discover a security incident until hours or even days after it has occurred. For this reason, don't assume that video surveillance alone can secure your site, remember to set up effective alarm and access control apparatus as well!


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