NYC residences want more surveillance cameras. Should you, too?

| October 10, 2013

The rise of terrorism has led New York City building complexes to invest in video surveillance over the last five years. Although earlier tenants would object to being under surveillance in areas like elevators, safety concerns have now resulted in most residents going along with the practice.

The New York Times reports that 740 Park Avenue, a luxury apartment building that’s home to celebrities, has seen a spate of robberies recently. “It’s the kind of thing that makes buildings assess and double-check what kind of surveillance equipment they have,” says Steven O. Goldschmidt, a broker.

740 Park Avenue

740 Park Avenue. From EdenPictures.

Buildings without doormen benefit from video surveillance. Even buildings with doormen are opting to install surveillance equipment as an additional security measure. But what about residents’ privacy?

Residents can’t expect privacy in common areas

Although residents can expect privacy in their living spaces, they may not get privacy in common areas like lobbies and hallways. Many apartment complexes prefer to install cameras in courtyards and service elevators, rather than passenger elevators, according to Brian McLaughin, president of SecureCom, a surveillance equipment installer.

Keeping an eye on servicemen who come and go in a building is advisable for security purposes. However, overemphasizing apartment security can backfire. “Mentioning safety and security can be, as much as any, a red flag to potential buyers. They’ll think, ‘Oh, are there problems with crime around here?’” says Goldschmidt.

Surveillance systems aren’t cheap. They range in cost from $ 3,000 to $20,000. The cost varies depending on whether pipes are needed for wiring, according to Larry Dolin, chief executive of American Security Systems.

Surveillance systems in apartment complexes serve many purposes

The cost of surveillance systems can be justified considering the surveillance system can be used for many purposes. In addition to reducing theft, such systems deter vandals. A building in which an elevator was repeatedly being scratched, did not face this problem again after installing elevator cameras.

Violators of building rules can also be identified. Videos of daily unauthorized visitors to a particular apartment can confirm whether people other than tenants are living in a leased apartment. A building with a rule that residents can’t move on weekends or evenings can enforce it easily using surveillance footage. And if management suspects a security guard of being careless, it can use cameras to check whether he is falling asleep while on guard.

Cameras can even solve some crimes. A tenant whose newspaper gets stolen can alert building authorities to check footage and identify the culprit in a discreet manner. Apartment complex surveillance cameras can be used by law enforcement officials to identify crimes on the street outside,too.

Poor quality surveillance cameras in large quantities do no good

However, cameras in New York City public housing complexes are not very effective. Although one in four of these 336 developments have cameras, images are often poor quality, making it difficult to identify suspects.

On the other hand, using too many cameras for relatively smaller spaces or low-risk areas can be overkill. “Some lower-income buildings want to put multiple cameras and they’ll end up with 70 or 80 of them. That’s crazy,” says Mr. Dolin of American Security Systems.

At times, even the presence of cameras does not prevent crime. A New York University study of two private apartment complexes showed that installing surveillance cameras did not lead to a drop in crime.

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Category: Surveillance

About the Author ()

A graduate in English Literature from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi, India, Nupur also has an MBA from the Faculty of Management Studies, Delhi University. Nupur is currently trying to be as savvy a cook as she is with a book. She likes watching plays and sunsets. Nupur first lived in Kolkata and then for a decade in Delhi, still her favorite city.

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