A Clear View of Liability

By D. Anthony Nichter, CPP

Operational but ineffective. Third from the top of the list is having a camera surveillance system that is operational but no longer suitable for the environment. In some cases, this can be caused by temporary or seasonal changes to the environment.

For example, during the holiday season, a California shopping mall’s marketing management hung elaborate banners and decorations from the ceiling. Unfortunately, these impeded the view of many of the mall’s surveillance cameras. When the security director complained, senior management sided with the marketing department. As a direct result, the surveillance teams did not see two rival teenaged gangs break into a fight in the food court. The melee resulted in injuries to multiple holiday shoppers, created a media debacle for the mall management, and resulted in expensive lawsuits.

Another example occurred when a Ne­­v­ada casino underwent a major renovation of its gaming floor. Previously, the surveillance system had a clear view of the entry to restrooms that were near one of the entrances. Outsiders often used the facilities, including criminals engaged in gang, drug, and prostitution activities. When surveillance room operators watched suspicious persons enter the restrooms, security was dispatched, and the users were instructed to leave.
When renovation was completed, the surveillance operators no longer had a clear view of the restrooms. The requests from the surveillance director for additional cameras to compensate were given low priority, even though there had recently been well-publicized casino-related incidents where both the elderly and children had been attacked, sometimes fatally, in restrooms.

Several months later, an elderly woman coming out of the restroom was attacked by two female gang members. When the victim’s husband tried to intervene, a male accomplice of the women assaulted him. Security guards intervened only after a guest called the hotel front desk on her cell phone to report the incident. Within weeks of the incident, management had allocated a budget for additional cameras. The victims took their consolation in preparing a lawsuit against the casino.


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