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Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) Systems - An Introduction [Hardfacts]


CCTV can be an effective and versatile tool in helping to combat criminal activity, and other anti-social behaviour. It achieves this by a combination of:

  • Deterrence
  • Detection/response
  • Provision of evidence

The first CCTV systems were fairly expensive to install and maintain and, as a result, they were restricted to town centres, shopping malls and large industrial or military sites. However, technological development and reducing costs, coupled with greater versatility and reliability, have led to such systems nowadays becoming common at all sorts of premises.   

What is a CCTV System?

In simple terms it is an electronic system for the capture of images, and their transmission to another location for viewing and/or recording.

The most basic CCTV system will consist of cameras and a just a television monitor; but most nowadays will also include a recording device, most typically a digital recorder - these devices having largley replaced older, less flexible, video recorders.  

Whilst a basic CCTV system may act as a general deterrent to crime, unless it is being watched continuously it is only able to provide recorded evidence of events discovered or suspected after they occurred. If a CCTV system is to play an  effective role in security outside business hours, it is usually necessary for the system to be activated by some form of alarm detector, which then initiates the transmission of live images to a manned monitoring post, e.g. a security lodge/gatehouse or a Remote Video Response Centre (RVRC). Such monitoring allows security operatives to view events and then arrange an appropriate response.

‘Hardfacts' 3004 CCTV - Guidelines for Purchasers provides further information on choosing a new system.

Common Applications for CCTV

A CCTV system can be put to many uses, but listed below are some security related applications, most of which will be overt systems but some may be covert (secret):

Access Control

  •  Checking identity of persons seeking entry
  •  Monitoring access to car parks or private roads

Monitoring Safety

  •  In public areas
  •  Of staff working in vulnerable occupations or locations
  •  Of customers

Controlling Theft, Arson and Vandalism

By monitoring

  • Cash handling positions
  • Bank vaults or similar high security areas
  • Unmanned areas such as warehouses, goods loading bays and yards
  • Activities of employees/public
  • Shoplifters 
  • Premises and yards outside normal business hours
  • Intruder alarm system activations especially hold up alarms and transmitting such alarms plus the related visual evidence of the cause to another location for analysis and action

What Type of System is Required?

A careful analysis of the nature of the problems faced or anticipated should underpin any decision on system type. However, in general, the effectiveness of any CCTV system will be more dependent on good system design and competent operation or monitoring, than the cost, size or technical complexity of it.

Who Can Install CCTV Systems?

Legally anyone can, but it is prudent to only use reputable and competent installers well experienced in this field.

Police and CCTV

The police are generally supportive of CCTV as a means of combating crime. However, if they are to act directly on live or captured images they have to be able to satisfy themselves that they come from systems that meet high standards of operation, image quality and evidential procedures. In this regard, a useful document for CCTV owners/purchasers to read is ‘UK Police Requirements for Digital CCTV Systems' and codes of practice from the Information Commissioners Office (ICO). See 'Sources of Further Information' below.

CCTV Response Arrangements

Wherever a CCTV system is monitored it is important that clear requirements and procedures are put in place for those expected to respond, for example:-

Locally Monitored Systems

Staff will need training in correct use of the system, plus safety and legal considerations if dealing with any observed criminal acts.

Remotely Monitored Systems

Clear instructions should be recorded in a 'Response Plan' or 'Service Agreement' outlining the actions that are required after any activation or fault signal.

These should cover notifying the Police, internal or external security staff, keyholders, maintenance engineers, or indeed any appropriate combination of them. Those who attend site should know how to operate all the site security systems, have authority to authorise essential repairs and be prepared to remain at the premises until adequate security has been restored.


Remote Video Response Centres (RVRCs) dealing with remotely monitored systems can quickly and reliably request police attendance only if:
a/ the system has been issued with a Unique Reference Number (URN) by the Police force in whose area the premises are located.
b/ the CCTV system meets BS 8418 and the installer and RVRC hold NSI or SSAIB approval.

Security Industry Authority (SIA)

The Private Security Industry Act 2001 requires contracted security guards, CCTV response personnel and those who monitor CCTV systems covering public spaces, to hold a SIA licence.

Data Protection Act

This act requires most CCTV systems to be registered with the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO). This requirement arises because nearly all CCTV systems capture ‘data' relating to members of the public, and this data can be electronically 'processed'. The act also gives members of the public a right to ask for copies of any data about them held on such systems.

The ICO has issued a useful code of practice relating to the design, installation and management of CCTV systems.

Key Action Steps

Fully assess the type of problem faced, e.g. safety, theft, vandalism or arson

  • Consider to what extent CCTV will address these problems and whether other measures will complement it, e.g. better physical security or an intruder alarm
  • Use reputable and competent CCTV suppliers, ideally ones listed by the National Security Inspectorate (NSI) or Security Systems & Alarms Inspection Board (SSAIB)
  • Inform other interested parties, e.g. staff or tenants of your intentions
  • Consider the need for staff training
  • Ensure clear procedures are in place for those viewing the CCTV system
  • Ensure any arrangements for a human response are adequate and timely
  • Check if you need to register your system with the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO)
  • Inform any insurers and seek their advice. This is particularly important if you want the CCTV system to replace any existing security measures, e.g. manned guarding.

Sources of Further Information

Other Hardfacts in the Property Protection - Security Series, which are available in our ‘Knowledge Store' at

Your CCTV company

Your local Police Crime Reduction Officer. See also 'UK Police Requirements for Digital CCTV Systems', downloadable from various sources, e.g.

National Security Inspectorate (NSI). Tel 0845 006 3003 or see

Security Systems and Alarms Inspection Board (SSAIB). Tel 0191 296 3242 or see

British Security Industry Association (BSIA). Tel 0845 389 3889 or see

Information Commissioner's Office. Tel 01625 545700 or see

Security Industry Authority. Tel 0870 243 0100 or see

Next Steps:

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Please Note
This document contains general information and guidance and is not and should not be relied on as specific advice. The document may not cover every risk, exposure or hazard that may arise and Aviva recommend that you obtain specific advice relevant to the circumstances. AVIVA accepts no responsibility or liability towards any person who may rely upon this document.

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