Video Surveillance – Hidden or Visible?

All too often when faced with increasing crime in one’s city it is common to think that everywhere is the same. Every city has its higher crime and lesser crime areas, but if you spend much time with the news, you’ll begin to think the lines are pretty thin between them. You wonder if it is time to relocate to a new city, and although that might be a very good idea if you are in one of the highest crime cities in America, if you don’t do your homework you’ll be spending a lot of money to move across the country and end up with the exact same conditions. The reality is that crime varies more between neighborhoods than it does between cities.

For a lot less money than relocating, you could take steps to make your home safer instead. That is why many homeowners and business people are putting in video surveillance systems. The question often arises about whether to put in a visible system or a hidden one. There are advantages and disadvantages of each to consider when making this decision. In addition to these two methods, there is also one more really inexpensive way to go – installing fake security stickers with no surveillance system in place at all. This also has its advantages and disadvantages.

Hidden Video Surveillance

With a hidden video surveillance you install cameras that are not easily noticeable. You have probably seen these used countless times in movies and television shows in order to spy and catch someone in the act of committing a crime. They work the same way in reality. They provide you with footage so that if someone breaks into your home or property, you will be able to provide the police with identification that will not only help in the apprehension but in making charges stick in court.

Hidden video surveillance has its benefits in that regard, but will do nothing to deter the crime in the first place. While catching a burglar may make you feel justice has been served, it won’t take away that feeling of being violated in the first place. And, if the crime ends up being violent, it won’t heal broken bones and gunshot/knife wounds, or bring back life.

A hidden video surveillance is an optimal way for observing activities that you have an interest in. For example, watching your home remotely when you are away. They can be ideal for keeping an eye on latch key kids and household employees such as child care and housekeeping services. They are also good for keeping an eye on an elderly parent that wishes to continue living in their home yet you worry they might fall and not be able to call for help. While you could use visible cameras for these situations, with the benefit being that those being watched know it and will behave appropriately, sometimes it is not beneficial for them to recognize that you do not have 100% faith in them. The same holds true for keeping an eye on employees to combat employee theft both of product and time.

Visible Video Surveillance

As touched upon in the previous section, a hidden system does not do much for deterring crime in the first place. A visible system will go far in doing that however. Criminals have a self-serving need to be unobserved. They want to continue their life of crime and keep reaping the rewards without fear of being identified and convicted. Because of this, they are more likely to avoid a property that is clearly protected with surveillance equipment.

To this end, having signage is extremely important. It is not enough to have the cameras in place, as a desperate, foolish criminal may not notice them. A desperate criminal can be one of the most dangerous, so having a prominent sign at all entry points is necessary to make absolutely sure that they are aware of the cameras.

The downside of having a visible system is that a savvy burglar can with a bit of effort either avoid them or disable them. If you truly have something they want, they may very well continue with the crime but take actions to avoid identification, such as wearing a mask and spray painting the camera lenses.

Getting back to the employee issue, while employees may fully understand the need for cameras covering the cash registers and other areas to deal with criminals, they will be incensed with them being in areas such as breakrooms and warehouses. This may lead to employee morale issues and having difficulty with hiring, although it may at the same time keep those intent on stealing from you from applying in the first place.

Fake Video Surveillance

The most budget-friendly option is to place security stickers around your property warning that there are CCTV cameras in place, without actually purchasing the cameras and equipment. This method has none of the benefits of a hidden video surveillance system, but it does have some of the benefits of a visual one.

Even though criminals do not see the cameras, if they see the stickers they may very well assume that the cameras are hidden. They won’t be sure, and may even suspect you do not have any cameras, but most will not want to take the chance. Again, that is only if the anticipated reward does not spur them on anyhow. And, if they do move forward and perpetrate the crime, you have nothing to aid in their capture and facing charges.


The best use of security stickers is in conjunction with hidden and/or visible security cameras. These systems often do not come with many stickers or they are not very prominent so you may want to purchase extras on your own to use. Additionally, if the stickers note the name of the system being used, do not use them as this gives savvy criminals the information they need to circumvent them. If you simply cannot afford cameras, using these stickers is better than nothing however. If they deter even one criminal, they have been well worth the modest investment.

As for whether to go with hidden or visible cameras, the important thing is to consider the ultimate goal. If you want to deter crime as well as guard against visible cameras being disabled, you could opt to have both types in use. That would be the ultimate solution to most situations.