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Police Official Advises on Home Security CCTV Camera Positioning

Setting up the camera locations for your home security system is one of the most important aspects of installation, as a badly placed camera can mean the difference between catching a criminal or missing them entirely. It’s only natural then, that this is one of the things customers are most cautious about when planning and buying a kit. It raised a few eyebrows this week then, when the UK’s most senior police officer suggested a method of home CCTV camera positioning that is directly at odds with the most common methods advised by installers…


A matter of height

The most common advice for installing cameras on the outside of a building is that cameras should be installed around 10-12 feet from ground level, out of reach of any possible vandals. However, this week LBC radio broadcast an interview with Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe– the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police- in which he advised users to install cameras at eye level, even when on the outside of buildings. His reasoning is that this creates a much more useful image for the type of Face Recognition software that the police use in investigations.

“Taking [pictures of] the tops of their heads is not that helpful for facial recognition which relies on the eyes and the configuration of the area around the nose and the mouth[…] So we’re trying to get people ideally to add
another camera at face level.”

CCTV screen-capture of a man at eye-level
Eye level CCTV can capture improved images of faces. image via

Collecting data

The commissioner’s advice is perhaps a reflection of the new methods with which Police can investigate crimes. Software can now compare CCTV footage to huge databases of faces, looking for an automatic match rather than relying on human identification. For the police, the more clear images they have access to for their databases, the better chance they have of identifying potential criminals. You only have to look at the French police’s operation to catch the Charlie Hebdo attackers as an example of how they are increasingly relying on footage from privately owned cameras as much as public ones. As well as the increasingly prescient concerns raised by privacy groups over the bulk collection of data by authorities, this advice also brings up potential questions over just who stands to benefit from installing cameras in this way.

The whole picture?

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Whilst eye level cameras may well be an effective tool for recording clear images of faces, you tend to lose out on the wider field of view that you get from mounting the camera higher. This means that you may miss vital details on a suspect’s movements, or what they are doing. However, this balance between detail and overview is not a new one, and is one of the most important things to consider when choosing how many cameras you need, as well as what type of lenses they have. A more troubling issue is vandalism- any type of wall mounted camera would surely be a prime target for people breaking onto the property- how much use is a smashed camera?

Because of this we would still advise mounting cameras at a 10-12ft height, however a camera installed at eye level could potentially be a powerful addition, provided it would not ruin your coverage if it were to be damaged.


Main image: Met Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, via Wikimedia

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