INSTITUTIONAL AUDIO SURVEILLANCE
INSTITUTIONAL AUDIO SURVEILLANCE
By: Don McClatchie
Of all the five senses possessed by mankind the sense of sound (hearing) is the second most useful sense we have, the first of them being sight. CCTV cameras allow us to record the sights and they are used extensively in prisons, jails, and other institutions where observation is required. If audio is so useful in our day to day lives, why is it not used more in institutional security camera systems? Detainees in an institution have no expectation of privacy and can be monitored by audio at any time for their safety and the safety of others.
When a prisoner, inmate or jail detainee is placed in a holding cell the agency with the authority to put them there is responsible for the detainee’s welfare while incarcerated. Many steps are taken to provide a safe environment for them, officers and the staff that handle them. CCTV security cameras serve a vital role in providing that safety. Most all CCTV cameras have recorders attached to them so that the video can be reviewed to determine exactly what happened during any altercation or interactions with the detainees. This has the effect of protecting the staff from wrongful accusations and claims regarding their actions but without audio recording there is no way of knowing what commands were given or what verbal exchanges took place before and during an altercation.
The recorded video can also be used to prove conclusively if, how, and when a detainee received bodily injuries when accusations are made. In this way both the detainees, the officers, and staff are protected from false accusations regarding their actions that can be observed on the video. The fact that CCTV cameras are operating and recording has the effect of reminding the personnel to follow the rules and protocol or face possible reprimand, and to a lesser degree the same holds true for the detainees and inmates although they have less to lose by following the rules. The video can be used to prosecute detainees for acts of violence or any other unlawful acts while in custody.
The use of audio with the video will help to further validate and explain the actions seen on the video and the fact that you can hear sounds outside of the cameras view is also very telling. The use of audio surveillance more than doubles the security provided by every camera that is so equipped.
So why don’t all cameras have audio built into them, and why do you not see more audio being used? Well there is a misconception about audio use and specifically about recording audio. It comes from talk about the wiretapping laws that were passed to regulate recording of audio over telephones and other equipment where an expectation of privacy exists.
This law comes from the (Electronic Communications Privacy Act) Title 18, Part 1, Chapter 119 of the US Code, and 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.
That phrase is the key to the laws regarding audio recording. In an institution, when you are incarcerated or being held by law enforcement there is no expectation of privacy and so the wiretapping laws do not apply. Some states have an addition to the federal law called “Dual Consent” that basically requires both parties to have notification that audio recording is taking place. If there is any question about your local laws, dual consent can be satisfied by the posting of a sign stating, “Audio Recording in Progress”. This will handle the notification part of the dual consent law. To exercise due diligence always check your local laws for compliance.
The next step in adding audio to your CCTV system is how to get audio from the camera area back to the monitor point and recorders. With the cabling for some cameras winding through the buildings it can be a dauting task to run an audio wire back to the monitor and keep it protected from tampering as is the common practice in prisons and jails. Another possible problem is long audio wires are subject to noise and AC hum that diminishes the audio quality and there is the problem of audio volume. A shout or gunshot can over drive the audio recording device and whispers may not be picked up if the audio signal does not have audio gain control to continuously adjust the volume level to the correct listening level.
These issues are solved by an add on audio system called the CCT/CCR-1 Camera-Com Audio Surveillance System. This has an audio pick up unit (CCT-1) that attaches to the coaxial cable at the camera site with a built-in microphone, and it transmits the audio over the same cable as the video without interfering with the video image. At the monitor point the audio is recovered by the receiver unit (CCR-1) and is available to listen to and record. By connecting an amplified speaker like the kind computers use or connecting it directly to your speaker equipped video monitor you can monitor live audio, and the system has an automatic volume control system so you can hear a whisper and gun shot with equal clarity.
This system is easy to install, requires no additional cable runs, and it can operate on the same power as the camera. Use this to add audio to your video cameras and double your security. Call 1-800-235-6960 for more information or go to: www.fmsystems-inc.com. Click HERE to see more.