Surveillance cameras balance between cost, quality for business owners


BOZEMAN, Mont - Local law enforcement officers have started turning to social media when they need help to catch a suspect. We even found an example on Monday, courtesy of Bozeman Police.

Police want to know if anyone recognizes a suspected shoplifter, or his car. Investigators allege he loaded up a plastic bin with electronic equipment from a store and took off.

One thing that caught our eye about the post was a comment on the photo. Gwen Moore wrote, "These places need to invest in better camera systems!!! Crappy picture." It is a complaint we have seen time and time again.

We found the issue is two-fold, when it comes down to needing that surveillance footage to track down a suspect, the clearer the better. However one local business owner tells us it all boils down to cost.

Mark Kottwitz, the owner of Bozeman Bowl downtown, says his system cost him a few thousand dollars.

"We basically shopped with the specials that they had, and purchased it at Costco," said Kottwitz.

He started out with four cameras back in 2008, and has since upgraded to 12. Kottwitz says cost has always been a factor.

"We wanted to get into it as inexpensive as possible," said Kottwitz.

Kottwitz tells us his system is standard definition, not high definition. He does have the ability to record on DVR, but there are no infared light capabilities.

"It still gives you an image, a possibility, and a direction to go, and I think when people see the cameras they act differently," said Kottwitz.

We also spoke with Captain Steve Crawford at the Bozeman Police Department.

"We have had a number of cases where the video has been crucial in solving the offense," said Crawford.

Crawford agrees video surveillance does help, but recommends businesses upgrade their systems whenever possible.

"Make sure what you have is working, that you can retrieve images out of it and that you can tell what's occurring on the screen, so it's capturing usable footage," said Crawford.

Kottwitz says he's tried to do just that throughout the years, making sure he keeps up with changing technology. He also knows it's a constant battle between his wallet and keeping up with the very latest.

"I think everybody would like to see surveillance that they see on TV that can zoom in and whatnot, but there is a cost associated with that, especially with a small business," said Kottwitz.

We did some digging to see how much it would cost to upgrade from a standard definition analog security camera, to a high definition IP camera. A representative with KENCO Security and Technology says upgrading a camera can run between $200 and $300 per camera. If you have 10 cameras, that could cost you between $2,000 and $3,000.

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