EDITORIAL – Lesson still not learned on poor-quality video surveillance

(Image: RCMP)

An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.


A woman entered a shop, brandished a knife, and made off with the cash till. Fortunately, police got hold of some surveillance tape showing the suspect walking along with another woman thought to be an accomplice.

As usual, police urged anyone who recognizes the suspects from the image to contact them. Good luck with that.

Once again, as is pretty much always the case, the photo taken from the video is so fuzzy that it’s impossible to make out much other than the most general appearance of their clothing. One appears to be wearing a COVID mask, which doesn’t help either.

So, let’s revisit the issue of bad-quality surveillance video. These videos are notorious for being so grainy or blurred that they’re of almost no value. At best, it might result in police talking to someone who might look something like whoever was in the video and, with luck, somebody might confess.

If not, the video isn’t likely to be much help in a court of law.

Technology has made impressive advancements in the quality of surveillance video and it’s now capable of crystal clarity at significant distance. Surveillance video cameras are everywhere these days so they could be a great law-enforcement tool if they were used properly.

The Number One reason their quality is so poor is cost. A store or homeowner can purchase a video surveillance system for a few hundred dollars and put it on the lowest-quality setting in order to save storage space, but get no benefit.

Or, they can spend a few thousand and get the real deal. Buying cheap junk will save on the wallet but get you nothing. Until businesses in particular are willing to invest in video equipment that is installed correctly and takes sharp images, this type of surveillance will be all but a waste of time.

Certainly, the crooks have little to fear from them.

Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and a retired newspaper editor. He is a regular contributor to CFJC Today, publishes the opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at

About Mel Rothenburger (9504 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

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