There may be times when it is suspected or known that unlawful events, including drug deals, fighting or intimidation, vandalism, or nighttime theft, are occurring on campus. With cameras in plain view, it is clear to all where not to carry out such dealings but; where incidents of concern are out of sight, it may be beneficial to temporarily install a camera hidden from view of the suspects (exhibit 2.13). (Schools should make certain that they consult an attorney before utilizing hidden cameras.)
Cameras hidden from the view of suspects under investigation are referred to as covert cameras. In school applications, these cameras are generally hidden behind a wall or ceiling or within a common building fixture. In some instances, it may be practical to use a normal size, readily available camera if a convenient hidden location is available, such as behind an air duct. It would be reasonable for a school district to have at least one smaller camera available for covert applications.
A whole new industry has arisen in the past few years that specializes in these tiny, easily hidden cameras. These tiny cameras designed for hidden applications are available in black-and-white or color. Microphones are included with some cameras, but caution is advised in their use due to state laws regarding privacy of conversations. An amazing array of disguised cameras already installed within smoke detectors, clocks, speakers, light switches, junction boxes, neckties, caps, and so forth are available in security trade journals; it is then up to the security department to appropriately place the item where it will not be suspicious. The size of available covert cameras themselves measure about 1.25 inches square. The lenses, including pinhole lenses, come in sizes ranging from 2.5mm to 25mm. Covert kits will provide both the camera and a set of several lenses that will handle a wide range of applications, from wide-angle to telephoto. Passive infrared cameras and surface-mount cameras also are available. They can allow surveillance in some low-light environments. Voltage requirements for the cameras are normally 9 or 12 volts dc and can be battery powered.
The video recorder that will be necessary to record the images captured by a covert camera must also be hidden from view. This may not be a simple matter. The smallest video recorder is much larger than the smallest camera. It requires ventilation, a somewhat clean environment, accessibility, and it makes noise. It may be necessary to install the recorder in a separate secure room or even in another building.
The video signal must be transmitted from the camera to the recorder. Coaxial cable is needed for these connections. Wireless covert board cameras are available. Although their use can greatly simplify installation, their transmission ranges are limited to about 300 feet.
Covert black-and-white board cameras start at around $150, with a resolution of about 380 lines. Color covert cameras are close to $300, with a resolution of around 330 lines. For these operations, black-and-white cameras may be adequate or even desired. Many covert situations occur in fairly small areas, and a higher resolution black-and-white camera may be more appropriate than a lower resolution color camera. Cameras already mounted covertly within a fixture can cost between $250 and $500. Wireless cameras can range from $500 to $1,000 or more.
Research Report: The Appropriate and Effective Use of Security Technologies in U.S. Schools