- Buyer's Guide
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Cameras specifically designed for contemporary carwashes bring the right amount of toughness, durability and technology. Cameras allow zooming to capture details, they can be waterproof and withstand the weather. They can also provide enough infrared light to illuminate an area when it’s dark.
Career thieves have learned to spot cameras, and then look for a “decent” camera on site. If they see is a small camera that looks cheap they know the video is unlikely to have the resolution needed to identify details. Most of the time, they are right.
Tiny consumer grade cameras just don’t seem to scare serious thieves. They have learned that cheap cameras are unlikely to have a lens that can effectively identify anyone beyond about 20 feet away. If all you can determine from a recording are general colors, it is not enough. The lessons here: choose serious-looking, large-housing cameras with adjustable lenses for your most visible camera locations and be sure they shoot high-resolution video.
Next, get a DVR recorder capable of recording your camera’s resolution. The minimum recording resolution for an important camera location should be 740 x 480. This will give you the resolution and picture size that can provide the acute details needed for identification and prosecution. Megapixel resolutions are even better, and the detail differences will amaze you.
Vandals often differ from some thieves in that they seem to care more about being identified. They look for cameras and blind spots. If you don’t have enough cameras to cover blind spots or less-important areas, then consider increasing your perceived coverage in those areas. I often do this by mounting an outdated or broken camera in that location.
For example, I do not have enough camera inputs in my recorder to record a back wall on my property that is shielded from the street - a prime place for a tagger. This is an ideal place for my dummy cameras. I also do this at my change machines. If I have a camera on the right side, I will put up a decoy on the left so offenders cannot hide from camera view. They don’t know it’s disconnected. Real cameras are preferable and are a necessity where you have traffic and/or people who see the cameras as protection, but that doesn’t mean you can’t act like you are monitoring non-traffic, hidden areas.
Make sure your DVR record in the highest resolution available and records full time. Your DVR should have motion-triggered recording.
If vandalism or theft has occurred, it takes time fast forwarding through days of full time recordings to find the event. Setting the DVR to record upon motion creates recording logs and takes only a few minutes to locate the footage. Also, by recording full time a DVR might record over older content.
It is impractical to transfer the recordings onto other media because it takes a lot of time and effort. It’s better to install multiple hard drives, which are inexpensive and store recordings longer than you would normally need them.
When something happens, simply transfer events onto transportable media. It’s easy and only takes a few minutes.
Getting the right camera and lens combination is probably the most important element in any system. Also your DVR recorder should record at the highest resolutions — at least 740 x 480 for analog and 720p for HD systems — at real time speeds.
Those two simple yet important things will serve you well. Ask questions and look at the specs for the equipment. If the specs you are looking for are not listed, look elsewhere. Consumers should be suspicious when companies hide some of the facts … what else are they hiding?
Allen Spears has been in the carwash business for more than 25 years and owns four carwashes in Texas. For 20 years Spears has also been a chief engineer at CarWashCameras.com. He has designed security camera systems for over 4,000 carwashes. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.