The Legal Side
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People can often be reluctant to install CCTV cameras because they believe it increases liability. Our experience is a camera system decreases liability since the owner is taking steps to provide a secure facility.
But if the system is not monitored live does this give the occupant a false sense of security? Have you ever heard where an owner is liable for cameras that are not monitored live or liable for systems that do not have complete coverage of parking areas? And does an owner legally have to post signs stating area has surveillance cameras and/or is being recorded?
The issue of camera installation continues to plague property owners and security dealers because there is so little precedent to rely upon. There are, however, some principals of law which can be applied. One is that property owners do owe their tenants and others lawfully on the property some degree of reasonable protection. The level of duty has many variables.
A landlord of a residential property has a duty to provide reasonable security when the property is known to be in a high crime area and that tenants are likely to be at risk. Also, there are laws that affect the landlord’s duty to provide some level of protection, such as front door locks and intercom systems. Of course fire protection/detection is another level of security and safety which is generally required.
Video surveillance, however, is rarely required by law. More often than not CCTV is installed by property owners as a measure to reduce property damage or to record the damage for possible police investigation after the fact.
Some property complexes do have digital CCTV with on-site guard monitoring and certainly the presence of CCTV does raise the question of liability. One who assumes a duty is then required to perform that duty in a reasonable manner. Thus, creating a sense of security by installing cameras or taking other security measures designed to instill a sense of safety will create a duty to provide that reasonable measure of protection.
Property owners would be wise to make it clear what cameras or other security is designed to do or detect. Signs just as conspicuous as the cameras would be a good start. A notice to commercial tenants that cameras have been installed but are not supervised and are for the owners property protection would be a good idea.
The public’s perception of CCTV coverage – or for that matter guard coverage – is probably not accurate with reality. Rarely are CCTV cameras manned and more often than not security guards are instructed not to get involved in an incident other than to communicate with the police to report an incident. This is not to suggest that there are not buildings where CCTV is monitored live and where guards are armed and prepared to intervene.
A reasonable person on the premises should be able to figure out what kind of security exists on the premises, and an owner creating a false sense of security should expect to be held responsible, not necessarily for the entire injury or loss, but contributing to it by the injured party not taking other security measures because of the false sense of security.