Monumental Security Practices

Every time I take someone sight seeing in DC, I can’t un-see them. I should be alright with CCTV cameras hanging off of structures. I’m a security professional. We eat vulnerabilities for breakfast and birth countermeasures at dinner. This, however is different.

Let me demonstrate my frustration. First, take the lovely Abraham Lincoln Memorial.

Abraham Lincoln MemerialBe sure to blow the picture up and take a good look. Right there, hanging off the side of this marvelous piece of American history and architecture are the most hideous camera poles. Every photo I take, my eye goes right there. Now when I look down the reflecting pool from the Washington Monument, I can’t help but notice these two floppy 21st century ears hanging out over the edge. Let’s move ahead to example #2: The Jefferson Memorial.

Jeffersonian MemorialIt’s in the dead center of the dome!

Well Bob, where should we put this camera?
Chet, the boss said he wants to see everything.
Really? Whelp, we’re gonna need a bigger ladder.


No really, why? I really want to know. Was there no way to put these cameras on a pole attached to the ground instead of on a historic landmark? I understand CCTV can be used as a crime deterrent, but I really don’t understand why they must be attached to our nation’s monuments. Besides, while CCTV cameras reduce auto related crimes by a significant amount, other crimes only see a small reduction(1,2). That’s a rabbit trail for a different article.

Perhaps a better view is rendered, however I would think that a wider view would also make it difficult to pick out the details of an individual. Then again maybe that’s what you want to see. Maybe they are high just to pick out mob behavior.

CCTV is really powerless to prevent a crime alone. It must be part of a greater security package. Does the placement of these cameras in some way improve the response time of the guard forces?

I hope that this arrangement of cameras is for a specific purpose that constitutes an overall countermeasures package that would blow my mind if I actually knew the full story, but I’m not really sure why these cameras are placed where they are. In the case of the Jefferson Memorial, much of the pedestrian action takes place on the opposite side.  What I do know is that they are quite hideous and this brings me to my points.


I think there is a way to marry security and customer expectations in order to achieve the mission of the customer and the objectives of security. We can glean some insight by looking at the humble, neighborhood gas station.

Gas Station

The trick with a gas station is to implement security precautions to deter criminal behavior and protect yourself in the event of a robbery. However the design must be done skillfully enough so as not to scare away the customers. You know what I mean. It doesn’t matter how nice the neighborhood is, if you pull up to the 7-Eleven and see giant cameras on every corner, bars on all the glass, and an attendant that hands change through a slot in ballistic acrylic, you are likely to avoid that particular establishment.

Gas Station Camera

In the case above, the security is subtle but sufficient, the lighting is superb, and the camera coverage (there are several if you look closely) is good but not obtrusive. Security and aesthetics mix to get the job done; The “job” mainly being protection, deterring criminals, and the attraction customers.


I sometimes wonder if security professionals put forth enough effort. Don’t get me wrong, we are also the red headed step children of any industry. People don’t want to use our advice because it costs them money and it hurts the bottom line. Some of our counsel is rightly founded, but inconvenient. Whether you are in the commercial or government sector, we face the same challenges, but I wonder if some of us are a little lazy our our implementations.

Many of us have seen lazy “security” work. The list is immense but here are a few:

  1. Alarm lines hanging from the drop ceiling.
  2. Large, all weather security cameras used for indoor, personal identification so the secretary can buzz someone through the door.
  3. Old security sensors covered by new sensors that no one thought to take down.
  4. Abandoned camera housings being used as birds’ nests.
  5. Holes haphazardly drilled through anything to run any type of wires.

It’s trashy, lazy implementation that reflects on all of us. In these cases security isn’t just costly or inconvenient, but it encroaches on the perceptions that everyone has of the establishment. It’s the equivalent of keeping your Christmas lights up till Easter. It shows that no one really cared about how it was put together.

My Fear

And that’s my ultimate fear when I see security implemented so awkwardly. I wonder if the security professional really cared. If no one took time to think about the implementation, did they really take the time to think through the steps of protecting their customers in the first place?

**Let me know what you think. Please feel free to leave a comment. If you have any thoughts on camera installations or just on implementations in general, I’d love to here from you. Oh yeah, and if you work for the US Park Police, I mean no harm and would love to hear your opinion.**

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