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Should I Use "Dummy" Cameras? Legality and Safety Questions Answered

Many times when you walk into a large grocery store or chain department store you will see rows of security cameras, all of which seem to be pointed right at you. These security cameras are great to monitor potential thieves, as well as look for employee and customer misconduct. Some crimes are caught using simple security cameras inside the 7-11. But a new trend, "dummy" security cameras, is arising. Is this legal and is it a good idea?

Business owners looking to save a few bucks might want to install fake security cameras, making it look like they have state of the art security. After all, paying for the camera and video storage itself is a huge expense. So why not create the illusion that customers and cashiers are being watched by installing fake cameras that way everyone behaves? Dummy cameras are actually being shown to not reduce crime, and can actually open up businesses to legal liability suits.

False Sense of Security

The problem with fake cameras is that they do not single out certain sketchy individuals to trick-everyone, from security guards who are unaware to the average consumer to a would-be thief will be tricked by these cameras if they believe them to be real. So, if a customer or staff member is attacked or the victim of a crime on your property they may be able to argue that by having a "secured" dummy camera they felt safer and let their guard down under the impression that they would be able to get help. If they are not able to obtain evidence or gain assistance due to a false camera, you may be liable in court as a property owner with negligence.

Fake Cameras May Still Be Prohibited in Some Areas

It is common knowledge that bathrooms and changing rooms are off limits when it comes to installing security cameras, whether in a public or private establishment. But sometimes it may seem like this is where the majority of the crime happens-in changing rooms that are unattended or bathrooms where merchandise is snuck in. Why not install dummy cameras in bathrooms to deter crimes such as theft and vandalism.

A Florida middle school principal thought this same thing and installed dummy security cameras in the bathrooms at the school to prevent graffiti artists for destroying the property. However, when parents learned of the cameras they were outraged, even if the cameras were fake. The American Civil Liberties Union considered filing a suit against the school unless the cameras were removed, so don't think that just because they say "fake" they will be seen as positive. Because of the dangers associated with "fake" cameras, such as unscrupulous owners actually using real cameras and claiming they are fake, it is impossible to assure customers that they are not being watched while also scaring away criminals.

When it comes to fake cameras, the quick-install and cheap price may be tempting. Using dummy cameras in prohibited areas or in lieu of working video surveillance, however, might end up making you the true dummy. If you have questions about video surveillance or how to properly secure your business, call our office today.

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