Capturing good evidence
For companies in the security industry you work for a client whether internal or external - this means there is a burden of proof that work has been done correctly or incidents reported in a timely manner. This fact is true regardless of how well trained your staff are or how much trust their is between you and the client.
Good evidence doesn't just provide proof of attendance but also two other valuable assets, firstly a wide view of the activities of your entire team highlights the need for improvements / training needs and secondly it gives added piece of mind and visibility to the client of their site - which due to restrictions they may not be visiting as frequently.
So what kind of evidence can be captured for this purpose?
- Photographs - a photo speaks a thousand words! Whether showing a possible hazard, broken window or simply that the gate is locked correctly these are the most simple and valuable evidence assets. This is particularly true for static guarding where large sites are patrol on a regular basis with little change.
- Videos - The ultimate in context comes from video where you can see incidents unfold or more detail than photos need capturing. More often favoured by security work involving people where the behaviour and audio are also important.
- Comments - Sometimes a note about something is a great reminder or a simple tool to communicate instructions between staff members.
- Audio files - Less often used in isolation but during heated interactions these can provide valuable evidence of behaviour between people.
- Tags / Logs - Common on some sites during static guarding are tags at various locations which are scanned to show the guard visited at a certain time or to give a checklist of activities to be performed. These are more complex to set up and with modern GPS enabled devices their use is reducing in many circumstances.
Ways to capture good evidence
We explore a couple of the common ways to capture evidence with some pro's and con's
A common sight amongst many security professionals body cameras offer a powerful way to capture live events whilst keeping the operators hand free to deal with the situation.
- Excellent quality of evidence with audio and video in particular for situations dealing with people like bars or pubs.
- Adds additional context to an event that imagery alone.
- Allows handsfree operation so evidence is captured during an incident.
- Good record times +5hrs and visible to others often leads to deescalation of situation.
- Expensive to invest in new hardware and systems to manage the large amounts of data produced.
- Data captured of people is subject to GDPR so adds an extra level of rigour to the organisation.
- Rarely have live data connections so often a lengthy delay between incident and review.
- No text taking ability and footage for static issues (e.g. broken lock) will not be as clear as an image.
Recent years have meant a massive reduction in the price of smart phones making them almost default for everyone. Containing powerful cameras, data, location and audio these devices have all the elements needed for a one stop evidence capture device.
- Most come with excellent quality cameras and audio recording capabilities.
- Staff will likely have their own device from either Android or Apple so no need to invest in new hardware.
- Nearly all devices will have a good data connection meaning evidence can be shared almost instantly.
- Has the ability to capture text information as well.
- Needs to be held in hand to capture evidence so not as suitable for live incidents like confrontation with people.
- Not suitable for long periods of video recording due to battery life.
- Need to manage the evidence captured correctly so there is not a data privacy issue when using staffs own device.
How to use a smart phone to capture evidence
As this article is about capturing better evidence without buying new hardware we are going to explore how to use a smart phone to capture evidence.
Firstly, what do we need to do with our smart phone around evidence capture?
- Capture - Capture high quality evidence as either text, video or photo
- Store - Ensure this evidence is stored correctly for use later.
- Share - Share amongst the team or with clients to make the most of it.
Most users of smart phones will be able to do the pull out their device, snap a picture and get what they need but the complexity comes in the second two steps, storing and sharing.
Most devices have internal memory a picture of video is written to, these can become full quite fast when taking lots of images / videos and if the device is damaged or lost all that valuable information is destroyed. Cloud storage is the most common way to store this evidence which even starts to help with the sharing part of the challenge, common solutions can include e.g. Dropbox, OneDrive, G-Drive etc. These solutions have excellent space for the cost but can be tricky to setup for a shared organisation.
Good organisation of evidence is crucial even for a small team, let's take an example of an SME with 12 guards doing static patrols on 4 sites...
- 12 Guards each do an 8hr shift a day for each site with 4 guards working at any one time.
- Assuming a patrol of the site every 2hrs and 8 checkpoints per site means each guard could generate 24 (or more) images / notes per shift per site.
- 24 images per site x 4 sites x 3 shifts a day = 288 images / notes a day... over 100K per year!
Making sure you have a simple easy to follow process for your team to upload and store these so it can be easily found is very important.
Storing and sharing are sometimes taken care of in the same tool, for example a Dropbox drive can be opened up to various members of the team or even external clients. Doing this means the daily organisation of that drive needs to be excellent if evidence is going to be shared directly or there is an admin overhead each day to mark certain assets for sharing.
Another common way to manage this is with sharing platforms like WhatsApp, it is free, multi platform and comes with storage as standard. For day to day communications between team members things like WhatsApp have been a revolution but when it comes to evidence management there are a couple of key issues that need to be noted:
- Finding evidence can be difficult. There are text searches available but with multiple collaborators on a channel there can be a lot of noise and trying to find a specific asset can be challenging.
- Adding a client to the chat means they see constant updates as notifications and doesn't display a professional image of the guarding service.
- Key data is corrupted on assets. This one is lesser known but very important - services like WhatsApp and others destroy key metadata on files like images, including the create time which means it is hard to really know when it was taken which can undermine its integrity or search.
Common pitfalls to avoid when using a smart phone to capture evidence
During these tough times companies needs to do more with less and despite Col8 making software to work alongside some of the worlds more sophisticated camera technologies we think using a smart phone in private security for areas such as static guarding is a great idea.
However there are a few pitfalls we see come up and whatever solution you end up using these are our tips to help you avoid them:
- Take more images but also make more notes - A common mistake we see is only taking one image of an incident or record for various reasons but then this lacks any context... why did you take that image, what am I supposed to be looking at, do you need something actioned... Making notes alongside images (and plenty of them so you get more detail) helps when later on they need reviewing by someone other than you.
- Don't share images that will go to the client over messaging services - As discussed above things like WhatsApp destroy important data in the images / videos like create time or location. When these files are being reviewed by the team or a client it is very important to know when and where it was created, reliably! Even things like Apples AirDrop can change this data so make sure you chose your storage and sharing methods carefully or your carefully taken evidence might be useless.
- Using phones to photograph people - Using a body camera to film people during interactions has become fairly common place now and it is more accepted but having a picture or video taken of you by someone with a phone still adds an element of suspicion. We recommend using your smart phone to mostly capture "static" evidence and if needed when taking evidence of people explain very clearly who you are and why are you are doing it, ideally before you do it.
- GDPR - No guide would be complete without touching on this! When taking evidence of people or peoples private property (e.g. registration of their car) you have to be aware some of this falls in the GDPR category which means a person has the right to obtain that evidence at any time and have it deleted. This means you need to be 100% sure any evidence taken by staff during work time is stored somewhere you can get to it AND there are no other copies backed up to their personal areas. If you are required to delete something and it has been backed up to the staffs personal area (e.g. iCloud for apple devices) this is a breach of GDPR. We recommend you use applications that do the capture and storage in one place.
We can help you do better
We created Col8 Patrol™ to get the benefits of using a smart phone for evidence capture, storage and sharing but without the downsides of other systems.
It has the added benefit of being quicker to setup, easier to use, specifically designed for the task and very cost effective. Starting at just £1 a month you can be online and setup today!