It is the job of our police and law enforcement officials to arrest and transport suspects of all kinds to jails and holding facilities throughout the country. Once at the facility the detainees are processed for identification, and then they are put into a holding cell by themselves or with other suspects depending on the facility. During the check in process the jail personnel attempt to access the stability of the detainee or at least look for warning signs of violent or self-destructive behavior. The first few hours of incarceration while they are in the holding cell could be the most dangerous for the detainee and possibly the jail personnel that interact with them. If the detainee has been drinking or is mentally unstable it is imperative that they be observed and monitored closely for their safety and the safety of others.

          This is where CCTV cameras have greatly improved the observation requirements. However, it requires that personnel closely watch the detainee for signs of trouble and if they are held some distance from the monitoring staff some dangerous conditions could be overlooked.

          Many jails have adopted the use of audio surveillance and augment the CCTV cameras to greatly improve the response time and safety of the detainees. In the drunk tank situation, a detainee could become sick and aspirate or choke, while in custody and without a way to hear the problem as it occurs the video image by itself may not show you enough detail to save a life. Also, suicide watch cells should be equipped with audio to keep the detainee safe from themselves. If the detainee starts to knock about or hurt themselves you will hear it and you can respond in real time. Or a fight could out break out between the detainees with more than one person in a cell, and if no one is watching the monitor at that time someone could be seriously injured.

          Our ability to hear sound is one of our most powerful senses and it should be used in your CCTV systems to alert the monitor personnel to danger and disturbances in the CCTV cameras area. A CCTV video camera can only look in one direction at a time, but audio is omni-directional and picks up its sound information from all directions inside the security zone, even outside the view of the camera. Also, monitor personnel can easily tell the difference between normal chatter and any violent or dangerous activities. The monitor staff can tune out the normal sounds but will be instantly alerted to the unusual sounds that spell trouble.

          Audio should be recorded when possible to protect jail personnel from false accusations, wrongful lawsuits, and to reduce internal investigations. Audio play-back with the video will help explain what is being seen in the video, because you will be able to hear the commands given to detainees and both see and hear the response for the record.

          Since there is no assumption of privacy in a holding cell in jail, you should be able to record the actions of a detainee being put into the drunk tank and the audio can be a powerful indication of intoxication when viewed in court.

          If your state requires “Dual Consent” to record audio, you can post a sign that reads “Audio Video Recording in Progress” and that should meet the legal privacy requirement contained in Title 18, Part 1, Chapter 119 of the US Code (Electronic Communications Privacy Act). Section 2510 Paragraph 2 states: “oral communication” means any oral communication uttered by a person exhibiting an expectation that such communication is not subject to interception under circumstances justifying such expectation, but such term does not include any electronic communication. Simply put, you can record sound if there is no expectation of privacy. Hang a conspicuous sign that states “AUDIO RECORDING IN PROGRESS” or something equivalent to that. As always check with your local municipalities to be sure you meet the legal requirements for audio recording.


          The next question is how do you add sound to your existing CCTV cameras. The main problem with adding audio is in the wiring process, laying twisted pair wires alongside the video cable is time consuming and labor intensive. For retrofit installations the problem is complicated by having to trace the old video cables through the building. This makes it hard to estimate the labor required to complete the job. However, there is a better way.

          This way is easy to do without the need to run new wires for the audio signal. You can use the CCT/CCR-1 Camera Com to add audio capability to any analog CCTV video camera, it even works with the new High Definition cameras like AHD, HD-TVI and HD-CVI. The system has a transmit unit with a microphone that attaches anywhere in line with the video camera cable, and a receiver unit that attaches anywhere in the video line near the DVR end of the system. This equipment allows the coaxial cable to carry the video signal with the audio on the same cable and you don’t have to re-wire the cable. If your municipality does not allow audio recording simply leave off the audio patch connection to the DVR and use live monitoring only with an amplified speaker like the kind used with all computers.

Camera Com Audio Add On

                 Camera Com Audio Add On

          The CCT/CCR-1 system also has a built-in Audio Gain Control to make it possible to hear a whisper and shouting with equal clarity. When the volume level is low (when someone is whispering) the AGC control raises the audio volume level so the audio is easy to hear, and during shouting (when the audio level is high) it reduces the volume level so that the audio is intelligible and not distorted. The AGC makes the difference between being able to hear the audio under all conditions and having to strain to hear the low-level audio volume. A camera with a microphone built in will not have this most important feature. For drunk tank installation, it is important to mount the unit out of reach of the detainee for the obvious physical reasons, and with the AGC the audio volume will adjust for the distance that the unit is placed away from the subject allowing you to mount the transmitting unit outside of the cell or even in a box.

External Microphone for CCT-1

        External Microphone

          For covert mounting an external microphone is available for purchase that can be discreetly mounted out of sight of the detainee if needed. Start using Audio along with your video, and get a higher level of security from your CCTV system and enhance the safety of all your personnel.