Management Considerations of Covert Surveillance
Many security managers will find themselves faced with the need to install covert CCTV cameras as part of a mission to secure evidence against criminal activities occurring on their own premises, perpetrated by their employer’s own staff.
COVERT surveillance can be loosely defined as an operation that seeks to monitor and record the activities of a subject from a hidden (covert) location, usually using a video camera. There are 6 key types of covert surveillance including worker’s compensation investigations, liability claims investigations, internal theft investigations and corporate espionage investigations. Cyber theft is at once an entire ecosystem, and a path by which crimes might be committed, as well as being monitored and investigated.
There are also investigations involving criminal activities in the workplace including narcotics, gambling sabotage and extortion, as well as investigations into company procedures including unauthorized use of company property, unauthorized or prohibited procedures, unauthorized access and time clock violations.
The initial phase of a covert operation is the identification of a criminal activity taking place on company property and usually involves employees, sometimes in collusion with unidentified outside parties. The security manager should oversee that gathering of evidence proving suspicious or criminal acts taking place. This evidence should be compiled, and a case constructed supporting a covert surveillance requirement.
Initially this evidence might include documents indicating losses from a particular area in which the suspect works, or reports outlining times of loss coinciding with times of unsupervised activity by the suspect. And it’s highly likely there will be witnesses to criminal activities, usually the individual/s who made the initial report, wither office staff or security people.
Witnesses should document all the details surrounding the event including what was seen, when, where and who was involved. These statements should be signed, and an agreement procured from witnesses that they will stand by their testimonies in a court of law.
The next, and arguably most important step, is tendering a contract employing a specialist covert surveillance organization or agent to carry out investigations under strict in-house supervision.
Some organizations, particularly retail outlets whose battle against shrinkage is constant, have highly experienced and well equipped inhouse covert surveillance experts to whom they can turn. But for many security managers in business and government organizations, such operations are a rarity and demand calling in outside professional help.
Choosing the organization or agent into who hands the surveillance opeation will be paced should be handled with the utmost care. Contracting professionals, full versed in appropriate techniques and up to date with the latest legal guidelines is a must for a number of reasons.
Firstly, poor quality visual documentation that doesn’t allow unequivocal identification of the suspect and that fails to clearly show criminal intent will not be accepted as admissible evidence. Secondly, documentation gathered outside the bounds of privacy restrictions will be thrown out of court after defence lawyers have torn the case to shreds. Your organisation will then face prosecution for breach of privacy laws.
Any company considered the option of covert surveillance needs to give serious consideration to privacy issues – this is a point that can’t be understated. In Australia the laws vary depending on which state you’re in, so pay special attention to the laws in the state in which the installation is carried out.
Security managers faced with a problem requiring covert surveillance who are unsure of the where to turn should talk to relevant covert surveillance providers, industry associations and government departments.