Caught in the Act: Chain of Custody Requirements for Surveillance Footage

From deterring crime and helping make your staff more efficient to keeping an eye out for safety hazards, security cameras can serve multiple purposes in your business. One of the most important roles that video surveillance footage can play, however, is helping police identify suspects and solve incidents that happen in and around your business. In an increasingly surveilled world, here are a few tips to ensure that your video surveillance footage can be used by law enforcement to investigate and catch criminals.

Digital evidence

Security camera footage and stills can be of great benefit to law enforcement, helping develop leads and provide clues in cases. This evidence can also drastically improve the likelihood of successful prosecution of the guilty while proving the innocence of the wrongfully accused. In addition to making sure that your footage is relevant and authentic, you’ll need to make sure that your camera resolution and positions are accurately able to capture the incident you’re recording. With more and more business owners securing their properties with surveillance systems, it’s important to understand the basics of obtaining admissible video surveillance footage.

In the event of an incident

When an incident occurs in your business, backing up that video footage on a separate storage device is the first critical step to preventing the loss of your footage. By default, your recording device will begin to overwrite the oldest footage when it runs out of storage space.

With some investigations sprawling over weeks, months, or even years, it’s likely that the investigation will continue long after your original footage has been overwritten on your recording device. Not only could this mean that you (and the police) might lose valuable evidence, but knowingly allowing this to happen could put you at risk of prosecution for destroying evidence. Anytime an incident occurs that results in a police report, you should immediately transfer the footage to an external storage device for delivery to the police, ensuring that the footage is kept in its native file format, resolution, and frame rate. Not only does this ensure that police have the best possible view of the incident, but it also protects you and your business from accusations of evidence tampering.

Storage needs

Do you only have one copy of your business’ tax returns? What about your business plan? Just as you would with all of your other important business data, backing up your video storage is critical. For everyday needs, DVRs and NVRs are an excellent option for high-capacity storage options. External hard drives provide simple backup options for your video storage that can be kept offsite, ensuring that your business is covered in the event of a system failure or natural disaster.

Video storage

While most companies can get by with a few weeks or months of storage for footage, more highly regulated companies, those most susceptible to crime, and those who are frequently investigated should consider additional long-term storage options. If you have massive or long-term storage needs and an ultra-high-speed internet connection, Cloud storage options can provide the most secure storage backup options for your business. Cloud storage minimizes the risk of data loss and provides the greatest security for your video footage.

Chain of custody requirements

Police and other law enforcement agencies have to be sure that the video evidence they collect from businesses and individuals hasn’t been tampered with or edited in any way. Establishing a chain of custody ensures that the evidence presented is as authentic as possible. While exact procedures for chain of custody may vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, here are some of the important steps you should take into considering in establishing a solid chain of custody for your video surveillance footage.

  • Photograph evidence: Encourage police to take photos of the footage and other electronic evidence that you’re providing to them to establish the initial transfer in the chain of custody. Take your own photos as well to back up your claims. These photos may include a photo of the computer initially used to view the evidence, photos of your engineer or IT professionals backing up the file to an external hard drive, disc, or flash drive for transference to police, a photo of the physical storage device with the date, time, description of the incident, and names of the person who made the copy and the officer who received it.Local police view footage obtained by Camera Security Now
  • Document everything: Establishing a reliable timeline is critical to any investigation, therefore any time evidence changes hands it should be thoroughly documented. Make sure that you keep a thorough log of any evidence you provide to police and work with officers to ensure that they do the same.
  • Work from copies: You should never alter original video surveillance footage. If police ask for events before and after an incident to be redacted from the footage you provided to them, first make a copy of the footage, then make the requested edits or redactions. The original footage should be preserved in an unmodified state.


Video footage can be easily edited, fabricated, or even deleted, so properly documenting the chain of custody is crucial to the successful investigation and resolution of an incident.

Helping make your business secure

Security cameras are excellent deterrents to criminals, but no method can stop all crime from occurring. If an incident does occur in your business, video surveillance footage can be the best evidence police have for catching the perpetrator and bringing criminals to justice. By following established guidelines for securing the best footage possible, preserving your video files, and establishing a chain of evidence, you can help police resolve incidents that occur in and around your business in a speedy and efficient manner.

Need more security for your business? offers surveillance cameras with a variety of features, including license plate recognition and facial recognition, infrared imaging for nighttime and low light recording, and wireless connectivity. With more than 30 years of experience, our expert security camera installers and technicians can answer any questions you may have about surveillance camera needs for your business. Get a quote for all of your security camera needs.

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