Security Camera Types & Features for Apartment Buildings
Security cameras are a vital component of security for apartment buildings. They provide a constant watchful eye on the premises and can deter criminal activity, monitor suspicious behavior, and provide valuable evidence in case of a security breach.
But choosing the right security cameras for apartment buildings can be a daunting task, with a wide variety of types and features to consider. The task can leave you feeling overwhelmed and suffering from analysis paralysis. As the property owner or building manager, you can combat this feeling. Set a deadline for making a decision and whittle down the available options by considering your wants and needs.
No space for recording equipment? Then you’ll want to avoid CCTV cameras. Limited number of outlets? Stick to battery-powered options. Unlit areas? You’ll need night vision. And so on. You get the idea.
By determining beforehand the areas you want coverage, limitations or requirements in those locations, and your desired outcomes, you can eliminate cameras that don’t meet your needs. Then, you can zero in on the remaining choices to select the best fit.
Ready to explore the types of security cameras available for apartment buildings, features to consider, maintenance best practices, and legal considerations? Let’s dig in.
Types of Security Cameras for Apartment Buildings
Security cameras come in many shapes and styles. Major security camera types include:
- Dome cameras
- Bullet cameras
- Hidden or “nanny” cameras
- PTZ cameras (pan-tilt-zoom)
- 360-degree cameras
- Doorbell cameras
- Box cameras
Many of these camera styles are named for their shapes. A bullet camera is long and cylindrical. You mount it on a wall and point it at whatever you want to be monitored. These cameras might be able to zoom in on something but are otherwise fixed and unable to pan (side-to-side) or tilt (up-and-down).
Dome cameras, however, have more room under the glass or plastic dome covering the lens. They can often zoom, pan, and tilt. Is that important? Only you can answer that. Because of their shape and placement—usually on a ceiling or overhang—they are much harder to damage than bullet styles. And they have a larger field of view, ranging from roughly 100 to 360 degrees.
For privacy and legal reasons, you shouldn’t place hidden cameras inside apartments. Public or shared spaces might be acceptable, but hidden cameras don’t deter troublemakers who don’t know about them. Simple box cameras sit on a table or shelf and are typically easy for a tenant (or criminal) to remove. Because of these limitations, neither style has many security applications for apartment buildings. Doorbell cameras might be useful in conjunction with an intercom system, but most models are made for single-family homes.
So, the decision mostly comes down to dome vs. bullet. Ask yourself: do I want the ability to scan an entire room, am I worried about vandalism, and can I install it out of reach? Your answers should make it obvious which style is right for you.
Camera Features to Consider
At its simplest, a security camera “watches” an area or a thing. That footage can be viewed on a monitor live or saved for later. But modern security cameras for apartment buildings offer a lot more. Features you might want or need include:
- Motion detection
- Integrated floodlights
- 1-way audio
- 2-way audio
- Enhanced resolution for better image quality
- Weatherproofing for outdoor use
- Wired vs. wireless
- Data storage options
- Remote access
- Night vision
- Smart home integration
A cheap camera that captures grainy footage is not going to be of much use should a crime occur on your premises. Sure, it’ll save you money upfront. But it could potentially cost you much more down the road in damages and financial losses.
Unless someone is going to continuously monitor the camera or you have extensive data storage capabilities, you should opt for a system that’s motion-activated. These cameras only record if they sense movement. Take it a step further and choose one with smart motion detection. This technology can differentiate between a person and harmless motion like a passing car or blowing leaves.
Motion detection and floodlights usually come coupled together for security purposes. Motion activates the camera and floodlight, throwing a spotlight on would-be criminals. This is often enough to send them scurrying away for the cover of darkness.
Audio and Video Quality
Some cameras don’t capture any audio, some record the ambient noise (1-way), and others allow the person watching the feed to both hear and speak with someone on camera (2-way). Which is right for you? Cameras with audio are definitely a step up, but you should consider your specific needs. Be aware that some states like California have strict laws about recording conversations and how these recordings can be used.
Image quality is an important consideration when selecting security cameras for apartment buildings. Compared to a single-family home, you’ve got a lot more ground to cover and a lot more people roaming about. You need to be able to discern details like faces, license plates, and more with confidence. Choose cameras with low resolution, and your footage quickly becomes grainy, blurry, and pixelated when zoomed in to pick out those features.
Common security camera resolutions include:
- Standard definition (480p)
- High definition (720p)
- Full HD (1080p)
- 2K or Quad HD (1440p)
- 4K or Ultra HD (2160p)
For the purposes of apartment building security, you don’t want anything less than full HD.
Are the cameras going to be used indoors, outdoors, or both? Make sure whatever camera you select is up to the task. Choose a model with ratings for durability and protection from the elements that are suitable for the environment. Generally, an outdoor camera can be used indoors, but an indoor camera can’t always be used outdoors.
How does the camera transfer power and data? Cameras can be wired (typically power-over-ethernet, also known as PoE), “wireless” (connected via Wi-Fi but plugged into an outlet), or completely wire-free (Wi-Fi connectivity and batteries). There are pros and cons for each, so do some research. As a rule of thumb, larger properties are more likely to require a wired connection for better data stability.
Storage options for your footage are typically either local storage—DVR or NVR—or cloud storage. Cloud is convenient but susceptible to data breaches, outages, and monthly fees.
This brings us to remote access. Do you want or need it? A camera connected to the internet—aka an internet protocol (IP) camera—is accessible wherever and whenever you want via a mobile app or website. A model that is not available online is called a CCTV (closed circuit television) camera, and it’s only accessible onsite. CCTV has become less and less common in recent years.
Night vision is rather standard these days, so virtually any camera you choose will probably have it. But it’s not all created equal. If you’re planning on using a camera outside without floodlights, you’ll want to check the quality and distance of the night vision.
Finally, there’s smart home integration. Is the camera going to be connected to other devices like a Google Hub, Alexa speaker, or Apple Home? Should it be? Bear in mind that the more connections you have, the greater the chance of a hacker gaining access. Smart home integration is probably even less desirable at a multi-family property, with so many tenants and guests with smart devices onsite. If you’re not giving your tenants control of the security cameras (and you shouldn’t), this feature doesn’t do much for you.
There are plenty of features you could select, so be precise in stating what you want.
Camera Placement in Apartment Buildings
Obviously, privacy is important to your tenants. You can’t place cameras in any area where they would reasonably expect privacy, such as changing rooms, bathrooms, and their individual units.
But shared spaces are another matter. Depending on your building layout, you could place cameras in:
- Common areas like the lobby, parking lot, garage, and mailroom (remember to take steps to prevent multi-family package theft!)
- Elevators and stairwells
- Entrances and exits
- Shared amenities like a rooftop terrace, barbeque pit, party room, pool, or gym
- Private and restricted access spots like the main office
Do you need a camera in every one of those locations? Maybe, maybe not. That’s for you to decide, but do consider each one when creating your security plan.
Installing a security camera in your own home is a lot easier than installing one in an apartment building from a legal standpoint. There are many things to consider and review, including:
- Compliance with state and federal laws. The rules in California may not be the same as the rules in Florida, for example. Review any existing regulations for your state and city before doing anything.
- Resident privacy concerns. Talk to your tenants. Are they worried about the cameras? Assure them that they will only be installed in shared and public locations, and never without their knowledge or consent.
- Notification requirements. Some states and municipalities may require signage in every area where someone may be filmed. Find out what the requirements are in your location, and act accordingly.
When in doubt, it never hurts to talk to a lawyer.
Camera Maintenance and Upkeep
Security cameras are an investment, so take care of them. Consider the cost and effort involved with the setup you choose. Typical maintenance steps include the following:
- Clean regularly
- Repair damaged hardware as necessary
- Upgrade or replace equipment as time and budget allow
- Consider professional installation to prevent complications later
- Test and monitor all equipment on a regular basis to make sure it’ll work when you need it
The system is only useful if it’s fully functional. Don’t let your investment go to waste.
Simplify with Deep Sentinel
Deep Sentinel is proud to offer a multi-family residential building security solution that is unrivaled in the industry, and at a price point that property managers can afford.
Trust cameras with the features that matter most, powerful AI, and live human guards to prevent crime at your apartment building. Zero false alarms. Immediate response. Intervention before a crime happens.
All that adds up to one thing: peace of mind for you and your tenants.