Security is in the eye of the beholder – the eye of a closed circuit television camera, that is.
Yet contrary to popular belief, CCTV does not combat crime.
“People equate CCTV cameras with security, but cameras don’t protect people,” said Dick Hudak, director of security for The Elmendorph Inn. “[Surveillance cameras] are really an [identification] and document tool for establishing the time a crime occurred to help the authorities with an investigation.”
Hudak said in addition to installing CCTV, hotels need to hire on-premise security officers whenever possible; provide high-quality lighting in remote areas, such as parking lots and garages; install peripheral access controls, such as electronic door locks; post proper signage; and provide escorts for better security.
“We support CCTV in certain designs, yet we don’t buy systems with all the bells and whistles” Hudak said. “We take a limited approach to monitor access control.”
Hudak said parking lots and garages are two areas that see the most crime on a property, yet he does not believe in installing CCTV in those areas.
“When you place a camera on a roof to look at a parking lot, you need to have zoom and record capabilities,” he said. “This will quadruple the cost of the camera, especially since you need to protect it from the elements, like rain and snow. In reality, it’s difficult to see any activity in those areas, especially in inclement weather.”
Not all members of ITT Sheraton’s Security Council share Hudak’s views on avoiding exterior CCTV coverage – some feel it is worth the investment, he said. What they all agree on is that CCTV should be installed to cover the perimeter of the hotel – entrances, exits and loading dock. Likewise, interior coverage should monitor elevator lobbies, the main lobby, front desk area, cash-handling room and safety deposit box area. Cameras do not belong on guestroom floors, he said.
ITT Sheraton averages 20 to 25 cameras per property, and works primarily with CCTV providers Sensormatic, Boca Raton, Fla., and Navco, Anaheim, Calif.
ITT Sheraton is not alone in using surveillance equipment on its properties. Previously, CCTV was thought of as an expensive security measure afforded only by larger hotels and gaming properties. Recent advances in surveillance technology, however, have lowered its cost, and have enabled CCTV to carve a niche in the economy segment as well – especially at properties with exterior corridors and whose front-desk managers may be working solo throughout the night. The lack of personnel and the easy accessibility to guestrooms have made this segment a prime target for crime.
Economy brand Signature Inns began installing CCTV in all its properties over the past two to three years.
Signature Inns works exclusively with ADT Securities to install security systems from Philips Professional Products in Atlanta. Four to six cameras per property are used at Signature Inns, which includes cameras, two monitors, switching equipment (which changes pictures every five to seven seconds) and a time lapse recorder.
“We believe in being proactive,” said Jim Getchell, Signature’s director of purchasing. “Ten years ago, if a guest was to see surveillance cameras on a property, he or she would immediately think: ‘This is a dangerous place to stay.’ Now the presence of security cameras gives guests an added level of comfort.”
Getchell said since the CCTV cameras were installed, Signature Inns has seen virtually no crime at its properties systemwide. To supplement its security efforts, the company has installed electronic locks by Ilco Unican on all guestroom doors and at all entrances and exits.
“We’ve got a camera at the front desk to see who’s coming and going,” he said. “The lobby entrance is open from 6 a.m. to 12 midnight. After that, the doors are electronically locked. To gain access, the front-desk clerk will look to the security monitor to see who wants to enter, and then will release the door from behind the front desk.”
Getchell said the monitoring device also has audio capability, so the front-desk clerk can talk with the person who wants access. All doors on the property sport a decal which states the property is under security surveillance.
“CCTV is definitely a deterrent to anyone on the property who may want to engage in criminal activity” Getchell said. “Typically, a criminal would rather go down the street to a property that’s not using surveillance equipment.”
Victor Glover, v.p. of safety and security for Motel 6, agreed with Getchell.
“The criminal element has one of best grapevines in world,” Glover said. “A criminal would prefer to go somewhere else to eliminate the risk of being identified.”
Working with Sensormatic, Motel 6 is in the process of installing CCTV in all 760 properties throughout the United States. Glover said he anticipates the installation to be complete by the end of 1999.
Sensormatic offers a wide range of surveillance equipment and functionality, including:
* fixed cameras (color or black-and-white);
* SpeedDomes (fast-moving cameras with 360-degree rotation and programmable targets and patterns);
* video management (control up to 96 cameras with full matrix switching capabilities);
* multiplexers (view and record up to 16 cameras simultaneously – all with full screen detail and the ability to view one camera as fullscreen, picture-in-picture); and
* quads (record up to eight cam- eras with the ability to view four at one time).
“All of the new Motel 6 prototypes are being built with interior corridors,” Glover said. ‘This will give our guests an added sense of security and will also help with our energy-management efforts.”
To augment the Motel 6 security program, Glover said all new prototype properties will be equipped with VingCard electronic guestroom locks. To help protect Motel 6 employees working the late shift, the properties are built with a drive-up check-in window so the lobby can be kept locked.
Motel 6 chose the Sensormatic system because it is upgradeable, Glover said. The brand has also used the Philips Observation System in the past.