Tuesday, May 19, 2009

UK to police: Cameras in public spaces don't reduce crime

After learning recently that Dallas crime declined less in areas covered by surveillance cameras than in the city overall, I'm unsurprised to see more longitudinal research out of the UK - widely considered the world's most surveiled society - showing that surveillance cameras in public spaces don't reduce crime. Reports the UK Guardian ("CCTV schemes in city and towne centres have little effect on crime, says report," May 18):
The use of closed-circuit television in city and town centres and public housing estates does not have a significant effect on crime, according to Home Office-funded research to be distributed to all police forces in England and Wales this summer.

The review of 44 research studies on CCTV schemes by the Campbell Collaboration found that they do have a modest impact on crime overall but are at their most effective in cutting vehicle crime in car parks, especially when used alongside improved lighting and the introduction of security guards.

Given the growing body of research on the topic, particularly out of Britain, even many CCTV proponents and vendors now admit that the data fails to support claims that surveillance cameras reduce crime.

Where they are useful is to protect specific assets - e.g., in car parks where a security guard is monitoring cameras in real time. But because of the related expense, both for cameras and more importantly, staffing, cities need to develop evidence-based methods for deciding when to deploy surveillance cameras based on where (and how) they actually work. Just paying somebody to monitor cameras downtown risks misallocating scarce policing resources and wasting taxpayers' money without delivering on the promised safety benefit.

There's no reason for Dallas or anybody else to reinvent the wheel by constructing vast camera systems that don't pass a basic cost-benefit test.


Anonymous said...

on one hand Grits, I agree with the report and think it would be foolish for Dallas, or any city to attempt such folly, even in better economic times. on the other hand, We are talking about elected officials here. I am certain that if they could find a niche market to allow one of their corporate fund givers to make some money on it, we will see this in our lifetime.

I mean seriously, we have seen the billions spent on the border and its cameras and just look at the marvelous results from that tax-payer expensed folly.

Anonymous said...

I wonder though if more crimes were solved.....

C Peterson said...

They not reduce crime, but how many crimes are solved due to the cameras?

My brother-in-law was brutily assulted and robbed and the "suspects" were caught because of a camera at a near by 7-11.

You need to tell more/both sides of the story.