The most important aspect of managing a building is keeping it, its residents, and the on-site property safe.
“Research shows that time-lapse videos did not deter criminals, but instead were only good in trying to solve crimes,” says Larry Dolin of American Security Systems in Long Island City, New York. “You could use closed circuit television to view around and into the premises, but a lot of people do not understand the criminal mentality. Criminals don’t care if they are recorded.”
More sophisticated technology is required to detect the modern criminal. Ralph Jenses, editor-in-chief of Security Products magazine remarks, “…It’s pretty cool that we have an iris scanner now too… and the fingerprint devices too. All of those things I enjoyed watching on The Jetsons are happening.”
“Over the years, security technology has advanced,” says Mark J. Lerner, Ph.D, criminologist and founder of EPIC Security Corp. in New York City. “The caveat is that you shouldn’t be overly impressed with the bells and whistles of the technology.”
Lerner explains that the often-used closed circuit technology, which records on a time lapse video, has undergone advancements. “The time-lapse is gone, but now, like televisions, there’s high-definition and hard drives with more capacity,” he explains. “The closed circuit used to be able to hold a terabyte, but now it can record much more, has much higher resolution and longer recording times. It used to be very grainy black-and-white, but now the recordings are in color and the resolution is much better. Plus you can zoom in.”
Dolin agrees, but adds that he “recommends closed circuit television but not as a substitute for security personnel.”
On the night of June 17, 1972, a security guard at the Watergate hotel in Washington, D.C. noticed a piece of duct tape stuck to a door lock to prevent the door from latching shut. “This still happens pretty routinely today,” says Lerner. “However, criminals do not go into places where they see a doorman or security guard.” A live guard also has the ability to sense something amiss and investigate – something a camera simply can’t do.
That said, the cost of hiring a live doorman or security personnel can be prohibitive for many communities – particularly smaller buildings or HOAs who may be strapped for cash because of major capital projects or other necessary expenditures.
How do those costs differ from that of hiring a human doorman, or having full- or part-time security staff? “A doorman is 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, so that’s 720 hours,” says Dolin. “Even at $12 to $15 per hour, you’re talking about $115,000 and that’s a lot for small and moderate-sized buildings. We’re 5% of what a doorman costs, at about $12,000 to $15,000 per year.”
No matter what the security system is, Jensen says that none of them are foolproof. “A camera captures an image, but doesn’t stop anything,” he said, “If someone wants to get into a building bad enough, they will.”
And it’s also important to remember that it’s not enough to just furnish the appearance of security; you have to back it up. So while the sight of an unblinking mechanical eye can discourage some types of crime, it’s still your duty to maintain those cameras with reasonable care.
“You’re not required by law to install cameras, but once you do, you’re required to do so in a way that’s responsible,” says Michael Hyman, a shareholder attorney at the law firm of Siegfried, Rivera, Hyman, Lerner, De La Torre, Mars & Sobel, P.A. in Coral Gables. “So what if someone’s attacked, and at the time those security cameras are down? Does the association owe some responsibility that the cameras are working so that it can identify the people who hurt or damaged or stole from the residents in the building? That’s where you get these tensions.”