The public's right to know

If studies and statistics indicate that surveillance cameras cannot be proven to effectively prevent crime, why use cameras? Why would anyone post signage informing the public that there are cameras there in the first place? Wouldn't it be simpler to hide them and not tell anyone that they are there? Despite these reservations, there are still some very good reasons to post conspicuous signage alerting the public to the presence of surveillance cameras.

Most importantly, some states will require that camera surveillance being done in the pursuit of security for a business or retailer has to be accompanied by written notice, particularly if those cameras are capturing images of patrons entering or leaving dressing rooms and restrooms. For instance, the state of Massachusetts allows merchants to electronically surveil a customer changing room, provided that written notice is posted at all entrances and inside the changing room itself. Each state will have different laws, but when allowances are made for private areas to be surveilled, it’s often with the caveat that the public has the right to know about it and choose not to enter.

Then there’s the argument that the best kind of crime prevention is always strict deterrence, and crime can’t be deterred in that way with hidden cameras. When your business or property has good surveillance coverage, with conspicuous signage and visible constant monitoring by on-site security, the opportunistic criminal will think twice and hopefully decide the risk of detection and prosecution isn’t worth it. The increasingly high quality of the surveillance equipment improves the chances that law enforcement can identify important details like the license plate on a car used by a criminal, or capture a usable image of their face. Studies and individual cases show that surveillance cameras(particularly those cameras being actively monitored) do help law enforcement catch criminals, and when a person knows they’re being watched – because posted signage tells them so – that may be enough to completely deter the crime.

There are also those who argue for a moral imperative to inform people that they are being watched. Hidden cameras and openly acknowledged security monitoring are even treated differently by the law, since there is an understanding that hidden cameras necessarily capture a person’s activity without their knowledge or consent. Privacy remains an important facet of an increasingly digital and connected world, and it’s becoming increasingly scarce in public spaces. Posting signage about surveillance cameras in place can allow people who are stringent about their privacy decide whether or not they want their presence recorded, regardless of their intentions. For the types of places where surveillance systems are prevalent and actively monitored, but are nonetheless necessary to visit (like train stations and post offices), conspicuous signage reminds visitors that while the surveillance is ongoing, it is not being done secretly and with malicious intent.

Ultimately, if surveillance cameras and security monitoring helps prevent theft and wrongdoing, then the sign advertising their presence will aid in that prevention and at the same time can serve as public notice to those concerned with personal privacy issues.

Public Surveillance Camera It's usually a good idea to let the public know when they're being monitored. We're betting this sign by itself has slowed down many a driver.