A masked person in dark clothing attempts to break into a car using a crowbar, viewed from inside the vehicle.

What's the most effective tool in crime prevention? Ask anyone involved in law enforcement or security, and they will tell you that monitoring potential crime scenes is easily the best way to prevent a crime from being permitted. But of course, each house and street corner can't have a pair of security guards there around the clock, which is why CCTV is the obvious solution. Criminals look for the easiest options when they select their targets.

They avoid areas which are overlooked and brightly lit and where alarms are most likely to ring out and attract attention. And most of all, they will avoid cameras which can record them and therefore provide evidence which could convict them. So, case closed - CCTV is a proven weapon in the fight against crime. Unfortunately, CCTV is less likely to be installed by councils in residential areas; it is more often employed in city centres, which means if car thieves or vandals have targeted you, it's left up to you to look after your video security. Here are some tips.

Choose a vandal-resistant camera

Obviously, vandals may try to break cameras they come across, so choose one with a tough outer casing. Then (if possible) install the camera where it is hard to reach, for example, placed up high on a wall facing down towards the vehicle. Make it obvious the car or property is being monitored, so passing criminals are more likely to walk on by...post signs stating that CCTV cameras cover the area.

It's no good only monitoring an area on a certain day; you really need to be comprehensive in your coverage. Look for a camera with infra-red illuminators to produce clear night-time images—or record vandals from inside your car. Choose a day/night dome camera recorder for the optimum recording opportunities. These have swivel heads, so you can manually fix the direction in which the lens is focused.

These plug-and-play dome recorders can record through the glass and are simple to use. Place the recorder on the dashboard and let it go. In-car cameras also have the advantage of recording vandals and thieves from an angle which is more likely to capture clear images of their facial features, unlike cameras placed on the side of the road. Even if the criminal is wearing a hood, you have a better chance of taking a good look at their face as they glance into the car to check it out.

Gather your evidence

If you have been unlucky enough to become a victim of crime, then make sure the video recordings you have made can help catch the criminals. If you've used a good-quality recording device, this should be straightforward. Good CCTVs, including the in-car cameras, feature a time/date stamp on each frame of the recording. This is very important for compiling usable evidence, should you require it. The recordings are saved by default to the removable SD drive, where they can then be copied onto another computer easily. The police should appreciate you bringing forward such evidence, as it can best secure a conviction.