Q&A: Who’s Watching the Cameras?

Q. “In my condo building, we recently installed more than 60 security cameras. Needless to say, I'm not a security expert but it seems like only a handful are recording at any one time. The camera outside the front of the building facing the street; the one(s) inside the lobby facing the front door; all of the cameras on the first floor; and all of the ones on every floor on both sides of the building — all don’t seem to be operating regularly. If this is true, a non-resident can enter the front door, take any staircase to any floor, and not be recorded. Then what’s the point of all of these cameras? If we can’t afford the cost of recording 65 cameras 24/7 on a vendor’s hard drive, why did we install 65 cameras? Is there a security risk to having cameras that are not recording data at any given time?”

                                — Frightened Tenant

A. “When buildings install cameras, there are typically two categories, ‘monitored’ and ‘un-monitored,’” says founding partner David C. Hartwell of the law firm Penland & Hartwell, P.C., in Chicago. “Unless there are signs posted proximate to each of the un-monitored cameras and in the building itself, stating that the cameras are not being monitored, it will be assumed that the each of the cameras are being monitored by a live person. This is important, because while there is no duty or requirement to install security cameras in the common elements of a building, once a board chooses to do so it takes on additional legal duties pertaining to building security.  A board of directors and property management should always consult with a licensed security firm to establish a property security plan to meet the needs of the association. Further, a board should consult with its legal counsel to understand the legal ramifications of undertaking additional security.”

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