On skyrocketing, and not
This story, from First Coast News in Florida, is classic mainstream journalism regarding security systems - in that it's terrible. Basically, the story is "Security Camera Sales Skyrocket," but, of course, they give no actual evidence for this supposed skyrocketing, they don't consult any of the easily available market research data gatherers (Frost & Sullivan have overall camera sales growth at about 8.6% for 2006), and they take the word of one integrator, Certified Security, as gospel for the entire industry. Now, Certified is a fine First Alert dealer and I'm sure owner Joe Hassan knows what he's talking about, but check this part of the story: Hassan says business has skyrocketed in the past 18 months because the devices have become less expensive, and more necessary. "People do less bad and more good when they know they're being watched. It's a fact of life," said Hassan. Actually, this is not a fact of life. There isn't, in fact, a direct correlation between people knowing they're being watched and their behavior. Just see this study on intersections where people are told they're being filmed and the rate of red-light running. Or, even better, this study about convenience store robberies. And I quote: Cameras were removed from control stores that previously had them and put into experimental stores. Also, the experiment was announced publicly to make potential robbers aware of the changes. The results of the experiment showed that there were no statistically significant differences between experimental and control stores. In fact, robberies decreased in all stores except Baton Rouge, where the increase was too minimal to be considered significant. These results suggest that increased reliance on cameras as opposed to other robbery prevention techniques is not effective. However, there are problems with drawing inferences from this experiment since randomization was not used. People who commit crimes are not rational actors. They're motivated by something much stronger than reason - usually a need for drugs, really. I believe cameras are great for business efficiency and for catching people after they commit crimes, but they simply don't work as deterrents unless they have analytic capabilities that can alert a responder in real time to prevent the crime from occuring. You'd think a news organization would look into that sort of thing. It's a kind of interesting slice of human behavior. Here's more from the news article: "Your alarm systems prevent and detect, your video camera's actually after the fact, help catch, prosecute, and basically give proof to put someone in jail," said Hassan. Okay. Sounds reasonable. Is there a reason we're making cameras plural by using an apostrophe? "Camera's catch everything," said Shea. Wow, they did it again. Hassan says some businesses that have really gotten into the surveillance systems are day cares and insurance companies that are requiring the companies they insure to have the cameras installed. Another feature of the surveillance camera's, is that you can access them from anywhere in the world on the internet. A third time! Cameras are apparently so special and selling so fast that you need to make them plural with apostrophes! Now that's skyrocketing. Also, I love that this is the last paragraph of the story. They didn't feel any need to elaborate on this point? Also also, I'm sure Hassan is mostly selling to day cares and small businesses that are mandated by insurance companies to have cameras installed, but is it likely that these two verticals are where you find most cameras installed? I'm thinking not. Good reporting First Coast News. Don't you have a car crash to cover somewhere?