Should You Use Visible or Discreet Security Cameras?

Visible security cameras might deter crime, but they also let people know where the security is. Hidden security cameras are more subtle, but might catch behavior that people wouldn’t do when they know they’re being watched.
Discreet Security Cameras

What works better – a hidden, discreet security camera system or a visible one? The answer to this question is entirely up to the specialized needs of each business and industry. 

Pros and Cons of Hidden Security Camera Systems


There is a time and place for discreet security cameras. Hidden video cameras can provide proof that a crime occurred. For example:

  • Construction sites can fall victim to employee theft of tools or materials. A visible camera on a job site might dissuade the theft entirely, but a hidden one can identify potential thieves in a staff.

  • Retail stores often suffer petty theft by customers. In a sprawling big box store, having hidden cameras can save thousands of dollars in missing merchandise.

  • Hidden cameras can capture an accident at a car dealership when a test driver or employee dings a fender backing into a parking lot.

  • If a customer slips and falls, a hidden camera can document true liability for that incident.

  • The same is true for an employee on-the-job injury. Hidden cameras could help a company avoid unnecessary liability in a workers’ compensation case.

  • Nursing homes can use hidden security camera systems to make sure each resident is properly cared for by staff.

Discreet security cameras are also less likely to be tampered with or vandalized. Employee productivity and performance can also be monitored with a hidden camera. The list of use cases for these tools is long.

Despite many benefits, there are legal ramifications for hidden security camera systems. FindLaw points out that federal, state, and local rules may prohibit this type of activity being recorded. When monitoring employees, for example, some state privacy laws require signage that hidden camera surveillance is in progress. 

There are federal wiretapping rules that state businesses cannot surveil union activity or use these tools in a way “that is meant to intimidate current or prospective union members.” Other rules, depending on the location of the business, may prohibit discreet security cameras.

As long as the company follows the law, hidden security cameras for business are a valid way to protect assets by providing proof that a crime occurred.

Should Security Cameras Be Visible?

Visible security cameras act as a deterrent for bad behavior. Visible security cameras might deter crime, but they also let people know where the security is. Hidden, discreet security cameras are more subtle, but might catch behavior that people wouldn’t do when they know they’re being watched.

Modern Parking Surveillance Cameras

There is plenty of empirical evidence showing that visible security in the form of signage and cameras can deter crime:

Visible security cameras have two goals: Deterrence of crime and capturing evidence of activity. These tools work well for companies in a variety of settings:

  • Remote gas and oil pipelines can use visible video surveillance cameras to show vandals or thieves that someone is always watching.

  • These tools are very useful for sprawling car dealerships with acres of hidden access points. Having an “eye in the sky” at every corner of these businesses can protect even the largest facilities from unwanted entry or egress.

  • What about monitoring the productivity of an after-hours cleaning staff? Having visible cameras is a good way to keep off-hours workers honest and doing a good job.

  • Long-term parking and self-storage facilities with visible cameras reassure their customers that their property will be well taken care of when they are away.

  • Neighborhood associations and gated communities can use visible cameras to deter crime and reassure homeowners that the area is safe.

  • Vacant properties can use visible video cameras to keep track of anything moving around abandoned buildings or open lots. A stray cat won’t care, but a trespasser might think twice if they can see the cameras.

There is no reason that organizations shouldn’t leverage the right mix of hidden and visible cameras along with on-premises or remote monitoring and signage. Placing signs throughout the business deters crime, because people think they might be caught on camera. Having someone always watching the cameras will ensure that an event in progress won’t be missed.

Security video surveillance tools are an excellent way to meet the challenges inherent in owning a business or property. There are many options to choose from, and knowing the right mix will help keep your business safe.

Finding the Right Mix of Security Tools for a Business

Security camera for a Business

Crime is more likely to occur if the behavior can be hidden from sight. Adding video surveillance can help prevent “crimes of opportunity” that damage a business. How video security tools are used, and whether cameras are visible or hidden, depends on what the business needs the cameras for.

A visible security camera does more than record crime—data shows that these tools also prevent it from happening. A hidden video camera is there to prove criminal behavior is happening rather than preventing it. Both types of video surveillance can record activity to help law enforcement capture crucial evidence of crime. However, whether your business has hidden or visible security cameras, evidence suggests they won’t be nearly as effective unless they’re monitored by a team of professional security experts

So, what is the answer to the question: Should security cameras be visible? That entirely depends on your business.

Knowing the right mix of security protection for a business requires the steady hand and expert advice from the trained, experienced teams at Pro-Vigil. We custom design our security packages specifically for each business we serve. By working closely with our customers, we create the perfect security web of deterrence, detection, and response to fit your unique goals.

Contact Pro-Vigil today to find out how we can help your business.

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