We previously discussed privacy concerns surrounding security cameras and your right to privacy as a condo unit owner or a cooperative shareholder, but what about their intended purpose for surveillance and security? These cameras can bring a comforting sense of security to residents, but if no one is monitoring them, than security is no more than a fairy tale. Properly used, surveillance camera and closed circuit television monitoring systems (“CCTV”) can be a powerful deterrent to criminal activity and provide building occupants with enhanced security, but what if no one is watching? Let’s say that your building has such a system. Is your building liable if a tenant is attacked in front of a security camera and no one comes for help? Is the building guilty of negligence?
A plaintiff alleging that a community association’s security measures were inadequate must demonstrate that: 1) the association had a duty to provide security, and 2) it failed to take reasonable steps to fulfill those obligations. In one extreme example, the owners of an office building installed fake cameras in a public space where a woman was brutally attacked and raped. Unaware that these cameras weren’t real, the victim appropriately expected someone to come to her aid. A jury found the building owners negligent and awarded the victim $1 million. Dummy cameras aside, even bona fide security systems can lend themselves to liability if they’re not properly maintained and reviewed. At the very least, if the CCTV is not “live managed” be sure that all tenants are well aware that video footage is only reviewed after an incident has been reported.