As for all areas of security, simply completing the course and successfully applying for your SIA licence will not make you good at your job. Commitment, work experience and further training all play a part.
The role of a CCTV operator is no different. However, articles such as this can be of assistance too. Here we look at ways in which you can tune in to incidents to spot situations as they occur.
1. Exceptions to the rule
Being able to spot deviations or anomalies within a situation is the number one way of picking up on a potential incident. Regulations and procedures exist in society to safeguard the public, to protect businesses and products and our property. These regulations generally have to be contravened for an incident to occur.
Helpfully, a person will often give off signals when their intent is to contravene such regulations. A CCTV operator should watch for a person;
- Exhibiting unusual behaviour;
- Being in an area where they shouldn’t be;
- Lingering around in an area for longer than seems appropriate;
- Dressed inappropriately for the setting;
- Acting suspiciously in general.
In the presence of such signals a CCTV operator should intensify their focus on that person.
2. Body language
A CCTV operator needs to become an expert on body language. Body language is the key indicator that when understood properly can signal a person’s intent.
Signs such as nervousness, stress and anxiety or over-exaggerated behaviour, (especially in a context where it seems unnecessary or unwarranted) are tell tale indicators of someone preparing themselves for untoward behaviour, (or in some cases trying to get away with an incident after the event).
A CCTV operator working in a customs environment will rely on body language more than any other sign. A security officer in these circumstances must fine-tune these skills of analysis.
A way a suspect watches their environment is also a good indicator. If you see someone looking around trying to spot camera positions, or maybe they are glancing over their shoulders to see who is around, you should keep a closer eye on this person. Quick rapid looks in different directions, is another possible indication of a person checking their surroundings so as not to be observed.
Distractions are normally employed when a suspect is working to commit an offence as part of a group. Designed to distract attention from an incident, members of the team can cause a commotion in one location in order to divert attention and resources, leaving the main incident to occur undetected.
To combat this, a CCTV Operator must have the ability to divide their attention and monitor a number of actions taking place at once, (also on a series of different screens). This is not easy and will only come with time and experience.
The effectiveness of the CCTV operator is increased where he is able to tune in to the sorts of situations that may be causing a distraction, and recognize them for what they are. Being able to detect subtle communication between apparently unrelated people is also a valuable skill, as this can forewarn an operator of a potential distraction.
Any behaviour that blocks camera-viewing perspective should give concern to the on duty CCTV operator. If a 3rd party is blocking the view of people behind them in a way that looks as if they are shielding, or standing to block a view without apparent reason then the operator should pay attention. Similarly if a person is moving into blind spots without reason, it could be a sign that an incident is likely to occur.
Shielding can be prevalent in shops. For instance, an accomplice may attempt to shield the person committing the offence from the cameras view, so that an item may be stolen without detection.
5. Common sets
Many incidents materialize in the presence of a common set of cues. For example, an old man walking along an empty street counting money in his wallet, while two rough looking young men follow up behind, is a scenario that would capture any CCTV operators attention.
Although the example above is rather obvious, it serves to show that an operator with experience will become sensitive to the sets of cues that when pieced together will signal trouble.
The more such cues come together, the more probable an incident is about to occur. An operator will observe, and as the number of cues increases they will be ready to track and report.
In most circumstances the opportunity to detect an incident is very short indeed. The window may only last for a few seconds. If the CCTV operator is tuned in to the correct signals the greater the chance of him being alert to an incident as it occurs. When he is, the detection rate is obviously higher. Furthermore, if the operator is following the incident from its earliest stages, the video evidence that is produced will clearly be more useful and of a higher quality.
Achieving the skills to be sensitive to the above signals takes time. To be a good CCTV operator takes a combination of natural talent, training and on the job coaching. However, by knowing what the signals are, and making sure you are as familiar with the conditions of your operating environment as you can be, you will find yourself detecting incidents with far greater efficiency. In short, you will be a better CCTV Operator.