A Clear View of Liability

By D. Anthony Nichter, CPP

Substitution. Thinking that a suitable surveillance system should replace, rather than supplement, other necessary security measures is the next error in the liability pyramid. This is typically the result of management replacing people with technology because “computers don’t call in sick and cameras don’t ask for pay raises,” as the author has heard it said.

This tactic is usually part of a broader business strategy to operate with leaner staffing across all of the company’s operating units and departments. The irony here is that these companies eventually learn the hard way that their ability to respond to incidents captured by surveillance systems and witnessed by operators is severely curtailed by that approach, which can have expensive consequences.

A good example of this was at a large retail mall linked to a Nevada casino resort. Inside the independently operated mall were numerous retail outlets, as well as restaurants, lounges, and a large nightclub. The mall had its own security force and a fairly elaborate camera surveillance operation that was highly effective—so much so that it generated more alerts than security staff could handle.

One evening, the nightclub had ejected some rowdy patrons who did not leave the property; instead they stayed inside the mall common area displaying aggressive and provocative behavior. The camera operators witnessed this and called for security responders to intervene. The security staff was already thinly distributed between three other serious criminal incidents and a medical emergency. The local police were notified, but they had no one available to send either. Eventually, a fight broke out between the ejected patrons and a man whose girlfriend they insulted. He received severe injuries during the altercation. The attackers then fled the scene, but were tracked by cameras and later arrested.

In subsequent lawsuits, the mall management and owner were sued for inadequate security. The mall’s own extensive surveillance recordings were used as evidence of negligence.


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