"America's advocate for the availability of clean, safe, well designed public restrooms"

 

            
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PUBLIC RESTROOM SECURITY

-- SECURITY MONITORING CAN INFRINGE PRIVACY RIGHTS --
Always obtain appropriate legal advice and approval before installing monitoring equipment!

 

NOTE: This web page is under development and has not been reviewed

     AUDIO VIDEO AND SENSOR SURVEILLANCE  

Close circuit video and acoustic surveillance will both deter criminal activity, and aide in the apprehension and prosecution when necessary.   The obvious need for privacy dictates certain limitation in its use and placement. 

Note: Consider low cost {<$100} wireless CCTV cameras with motion detection.  They install easily and generate brief  images files sent via email.  .

TYPES OF SURVEILLANCE 

Dummy Cameras - act as deterrent 

CCTV external (to restroom), record only  - video viewed only if needed for investigation. 

CCTV external, monitor only -  Security staff detect misuse as it occurs.    

CCTV external, record & monitor 

Video' block image' monitors - Low Image resolution protects privacy while still provide enough detail to alert to criminal activity

Passive Ultrasonic Sensors - detect brakeage but not conversation.  Might not detect calls for help.

Motion Sensors - detects usage or can be set to detect only those quick motions associated with misuse

Video lavatory, record only  

Video lavatory, monitor only

Video lavatory, record & monitor

Acoustic Sensors - detect brakeage and calls for help 

Note: Lavatory is the hand washing area


LEGALLY APPROVED WARNING SIGNS
 PROTECT PRIVACY AND ACT AS A DETERRENT 


 

ENTRIES AND EXITS TO PUBLIC RESTROOMS

To improve security particularly for women, entrances to toilet facilities should be located where a clear site-line exist to high traffic public area's.

A labyrinth entrances directly along major traffic corridors provide both the 'sense of' and actual security.  Worse-case configuration have restrooms at the end of long corridor's  where users have no acoustic or visual site-line to a  high person traffic area

 

CUSTOMER LOCKED RESTROOMS

Everyone understands the reasons for locks on stalls.  Locks on the outside door to the full restroom, however, significantly impact the availability of the facility.  An unlocked facility may find a person in a stall while another is washing, and a third is using a hand dryer.  This same situation in a locked room would have 2 people waiting outside.   Locked rooms also increase misuse, such as longer employee smoke breaks, that further increase the likelihood of queuing.  

 

STALL DOORS 

There should be no outside latches that could be used to lock a person in a stall

 

RESTROOM DOORS

Labyrinth entrances (door-less) avoid the problem of an outward swinging door hitting someone.   With no door opening to give warning of possible visit by security personnel labyrinth design is less conducive to unwanted activity.  Additionally, the sound signature of criminal activity is more likely to be detected when no doors exist.  (see also LOCKS)

 

CEILINGS

Open ceilings or a ceiling with ventilation provide a conduit for sound.  Some sound dampening is necessary to assure privacy but the knowledge that a call for help can be heard reduces apprehension of both the occupant and a waiting parent or opposite sex care-provider.

 

DOOR HANDLES

Where paper towels are present many will use a piece of towel to grip the handle.  Some littering of the restroom floors can reduced by recognizing this smart practice  and providing trash receptacles close to the exit.

 

DOOR & MIRRORS SIGHT LINES

Thoughtlessly placed mirrors may provide a sight-line into areas where privacy was intended, for example the unshielded urinals in the men's room.   In some case poorly placed toilet fixtures can be viewed directly.  Thoughtfully placed mirrors can increase security, especially in Women's Restrooms, by allowing a line of sight from the entrance to the back of the restroom.

The worse situation is an external restroom door with internal slide locks.  They provide no mechanism for building management to intervene when an occupant fails to respond after an excessive period of usage.   (see also DOORS)   

Portable Sanitation Units often have outside latches that accommodate a pad lock.  A child with a small stick can easily 'imprison' an occupant.  

 

 

'OTHER VOICES'

"Detectives were successful in catching some drug activity that was captured ... ...on the camera positioned outside the restroom ...
The Saginaw News MI 2/22/07

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Student facing expulsion... ...When the student was questioned ... claimed he had mistakenly entered the wrong restroom ... video clearly showed the student exiting the menís restroom and then entering the womenís restroom. Later, the teacher is seen leaving the womenís restroom and then the student is seen running from the womenís restroom.... Massillon Independent OH 4/5/07

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Surveillance cameras ... at Strawberry Lake Park in Norway Mich, officials say, the cameras are legal.. The cameras are not in the stalls of the rest rooms.
WLUC-TV  Negaunee,MI  6/19/06

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...In what may be the future of high-traffic buildings in America, the architecturally inventive library on Nicollet Mall has installed surveillance cameras in its most frequented restrooms. The ceiling-embedded cameras do not videotape stalls or urinals, but they capture patrons as they head for the sinks and hand dryers.
SMILE, BOOK LOVERS TwinCities Pioneer Press - St. Paul,MN 9/23/06

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...The escort policy is soon to be discontinued, and other options are more effective anyway: Investing in cameras to monitor bathroom entrances would minimize vandalism and identify the threat makers... 
Salem OR Statesman Journal 'Heavy school security is an ineffective quick fix' 11/22/06

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 ... The students who set the fires were caught through video surveillance ... 
All Headline News Corp 'High School Students Walked To Bathroom' 11/6/2006 

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As written, the ordinance would make it illegal to beg for money within 15 feet of ATMs, public bathrooms, pay phones, businesses and several other places.
GA. Macon Telegraph 12/06/06

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Woman sentenced in crack case - A LaPorte woman was sentenced for locking herself in a service station restroom for two hours and smoking crack cocaine.
South Bend (IN) Tribune 2/27/07

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...an infrared detection system became available to record employees' restroom habits. Sensors could record and indicate when a person entered a restroom, and whether they stopped at the sink for at least 15 seconds to wash their hands, and even whether they used soap...
Redding, CA The Record Searchlight 5/20/07

Around the corner, the public toilets have blue lights. This is a pragmatic Swiss solution for preventing needle junkies from using that space for shooting up: Under the blue lights, they can't see their veins.
Dallas Morning News, Inc 8/5/09

 PRIVACY PARTITIONS

Urinal privacy sufficiently high to prevent adjacent urinal person to person eye-contact is an impediment to nefarious activities. 

Most toilet stalls partitions do not reach the floor to accommodate easy mopping.  This configuration is also an impediment to misuse such as long employee smoke breaks.   Long tongue latches that catch inside door frame allow stall doors to stay closed even if poorly installed frames become misaligned. 

 

TOILET PAPER ISSUES - Misuse versus availability.  

Roll-over (switch-over to second roll) when empty.
High dissolvability tissue prevents clogs in high use environments
Restricted quantity push button feed systems

 

PUBLIC POLICY

Prohibit loitering and panhandling near public restrooms

 

DISCUSSION 
SECURITY CAMERAS IN PUBLIC RESTROOMS
  


To: Members ARA
Sent: Monday, October 09, 2006 8:56 AM
Subject: Security cameras in restrooms

This is a follow-up story to one that appeared earlier. The one consensus of those who discussed the earlier story was that signs should be clearly displayed so that everyone knows what areas of the restroom are covered.

... Cameras in restrooms and fireproof book drops have taken library security to a new level, with the goal of creating a safe environment. ...
Source: 'A new book on library security'  Minneapolis Star Tribune Minneapolis,MN,USA
http://www.startribune.com/462/story/729486.html 


======================================================== 

From: JT S.
Sent: Monday, October 09, 2006 6:18 PM
Subject: Security cameras in restrooms

It's very unfortunate that this level of security is deemed necessary.
Are the cameras monitored by gender-appropriate personnel? Probably not. Not OK.
Are they recorded? probably so. Not so OK.
Are the cameras clearly and appropriately disclosed? probably so--OK.

========================================================

From: Wayne M. 
Sent: Monday, October 09, 2006 10:03 AM
Subject: Re: Security cameras in restrooms

As a sometime patron of both the Minneapolis and St. Paul (Ramsey county) libraries, I'm all in favor of security cameras everywhere. Since it seems certain that libraries will continue to function as 
drop-in centers for homeless, sometimes disturbed, sometimes malicious people, it's vital to make the rest of us feel safe there.

I say put the cameras inside the restrooms, but not covering the inside of the stalls. If criminal behavior is occurring inside the stalls, then I'd even favor overhead cameras covering those areas, 
too. Strict rules would have to be set up to control the access to those images, to protect privacy. But that shouldn't be too difficult, since we already have the prototype for those rules: 
HIPA, the U.S. Health Information Protection Act.

Since you're telling your readers about restroom-related topics in the Twin Cities, they might also be interested in the new exhibit at the Hennepin History Museum: "Places to Go: Bathrooms of the Twin 
Cities." Here's a link to the museum's Web site:

http://www.hhmuseum.org/ex/ex_itg.htm

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----- Original Message ----- 
From: Mary C. 
Sent: Saturday, September 23, 2006 1:14 PM
Subject: Architecturally inventive library installed surveillance cameras in restrooms

I read the article and guess I don't share your feelings about the cameras. Clearly if someone comes out of the restroom without dressing completely first, they aren't too concerned about who sees what...grant it, it is usually same sex...maybe the monitor of a female restroom could be required to be female...and visa versa. That said...I have worked for 6 years to provide a "safe" - "vandal resistant" - and "vagrant free" public restroom facility in Kellogg Park. Major cuts in personnel makes it impossible to provide the necessary surveillance to eliminate crime, vandalism or vagrancy in such facilities and safety is a huge concern. I would be in total support of cameras...as long as they did not invade the privacy of a urinal or stall. 

Mine may be an unpopular view, but basic respect for human beings and facilities seems to be at an all time low. I hate to enter restrooms that don't have individual stalls with doors opening to the outside (gender specific gang type with labyrinths, etc.) where I can be assured that I will not have to be concerned that someone is lurking within. I think I would feel safer entering a restroom that I knew was being monitored, albeit by cameras, than one that wasn't.  

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From: Carol M.
Sent: Saturday, September 23, 2006 11:53 AM
Subject: Re: Architecturally inventive library installed surveillance cameras in restrooms

Librarians have long led the fight for rights of free speech, assembly and privacy, so this surprises me. Particularly the real time monitoring of a real time loop. 

The measure was instituted in response to 25% cut in library staffing. Rather than staff real time monitoring, why not institute periodic checks? 

Despite the investment in hardware, perhaps it's a temporary measure? Let's hope library authorities announce it as such and do away with it as soon as funding permits. But I'd like to think that citizen outrage will make the situation temporary even quicker.

NOTE: This web page is under development and has not been reviewed

 

                                                                                                                                                                         

American Restroom Association                                      
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WARNING AND DISCLAIMER: The American Restroom Association (ARA) is formally incorporated in the State of Maryland and is a subsidiary of the International Paruresis Association  ARA is not qualified to provide legal advice. This web site contains non-vetted information that is un-official and for education only. There are no formal or financial agreements with any persons or entities cited. Some material is from copyrighted sources. This material is for education only and it must be source referenced.

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