Thieves who stole the hard disc of a closed circuit television network (CCTV) camera to conceal their identity after breaking into a finance firm have left the police bewildered. Robbers who struck a corporate office at Palanganatham on Thursday left with a digital video recorder (DVR) of the CCTV. “This is the first time that we’ve come across the culprits taking away the hard disc. There had been incidents of criminals damaging the CCTV cameras. It seems the criminals are keeping themselves updated on the latest technologies and finding loopholes to escape,” an Assistant Commissioner of Police said.

The police were hopeful of identifying the culprits with the help of video footage captured by the cameras at the pawn broker firm. However, during the search at the scene of crime, the police realised that the DVR had been removed by the robbers.

Police rely on CCTV footage to identify criminals and track them down. The video clippings of the CCTV network installed in the State Bank ATM helped to identify two suspects wanted for the murder of the watchman prior to a futile attempt to break open the ATM cash chest at Vadipatti few months ago. However, they remain at large.

In a second incident, the video footage (from the CCTV of a commercial establishment) showing an armed gang chasing two brothers on a motorcycle before one of them was murdered was helpful in strengthening the evidence against the perpetrators.

However, the finance company had left the DVR in the open making it easy for the culprits to take it with them, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Crime) R. Tamil Chandran said.

While many commercial establishments, including banks, jewellery shops, pawn brokers, hotels and lodges have installed CCTV network on the insistence of the police, not all have realised the importance of CCTVs, the police say.

On Thursday, the Deputy Commissioner found a dysfunctional CCTV at a jewellery shop near the finance company. “Every day the managers or owners of commercial establishments must check whether the cameras work properly. They should ensure that the hard disc is recording the visuals without any technical hitch,” he said.

Another police official said that there were lot of security aspects to be followed for effective usage of the CCTV network. The cameras should be, preferably, camouflaged so that outsiders will not be able to see where they are fixed. The wiring should be concealed to prevent disconnection by criminals. Dome cameras could be used so that no one can turn the camera in a different direction or damage it. More importantly, the hard disc where the video recordings are stored should be in a place where access is strictly controlled. “It is not necessary that only outsiders will damage it. Even the employees of the company can play mischief,” the official said.

He pointed out that big commercial establishments can have the storage facility outside their premises through wireless connectivity.

The city police are planning to have another round of meeting with representatives of commercial establishments to sensitise them to various aspects of CCTV network, Mr. Tamil Chandran said.

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