I'm betting the Dallas News' sources are a better reflection of the real overall crime rate. Whaddya think? (There's a vigorous debate on the subject of surveillance cameras already occurring, btw, on the Statesman's blog.)
Even if crime has decreased that much, I personally doubt surveillance cameras had much to do with it. The best longitudinal camera studies say they do little or nothing to reduce crime when used for general public surveillance, as Acevedo proposes, and are more frequently used for leering at attractive women on the street than preventing crime. (When used on specific, high-value assets like car parks, and when they're monitored, they're more useful, but not just out in the street. See prior Grits coverage of a landmark study by the British Home Office finding little crime reduction from camera surveillance.)
I've argued previously that instead of "multiplying" officers' ability to monitor crime, even when they "work," surveillance cameras usurp police management decisions by over-allocating scarce resources to monitored areas.
While cameras in public spaces do little to reduce crime, they open up easy avenues for abuse. As I've written previously:
Great Britain has become the most surveilled country in the world, largely in response to IRA terrorism. Dr Clive Norris and Gary Armstrong of the Centre for Criminology and Criminal Justice at Hull University, UK, authored a study of the British experience called The Unforgiving Eye: CCTV Surveillance in Public Spaces, in which they found:There's another problem with camera surveillance for crime fighting purposes that's seldom discussed. Cameras can be defeated with inexpensive, low-tech means, like sunglasses, hats, hoods, minimal disguises, or a six cent paintball pellet. So it's very easy to thwart the cameras, but whenever a crime occurs, officers have to watch hours and hours of video, usually with little benefit to the case. And while they are doing that, they are not investigating crimes.
- 40% of people were targeted for "no obvious reason", mainly "on the basis of belonging to a particular or subcultural group."
- "Black people were between one-and-a-half and two-and-a-half times more likely to be surveilled than one would expect from their presence in the population." Thirty percent of targeted surveillances on black people were protracted, lasting 9 minutes or more, compared with just 10% on white people.
- Those deemed to be "out of time and out of place" with the commercial image of city centre streets were subjected to prolonged surveillance. "Thus drunks, beggars, the homeless, street traders were all subject to intense surveillance".
- One out of ten women were targeted for “voyeuristic” reasons by the male camera operators.
- "Finally, anyone who directly challenged, by gesture or deed, the right of the cameras to monitor them was especially subject to targeting.
That last bit about cops wasting time watching video isn't just me talking. I borrowed the notion from a "world-weary" London cop/blogger who wrote in 2006 that "CCTV viewing occupies a disproportionate amount of police time with very little tangible result. This fact is well known to street criminals."
When both cops and the street criminals know cameras don't actually combat crime, the only reason left to favor cameras is to fool the public into thinking you're doing something as a PR stunt.
RELATED: Pink Dome has some questions for the Chief that can't be answered with more government camera surveillance.