How Effective are CCTV Security Systems at Reducing Crime?

Since the July 7th London bombings, CCTV security systems (closed circuit TV) across the world have been examined with greater scrutiny and with greater expectations for reducing crime. Although not a panacea for preventing crime, many CCTV surveillance systems have been successful at reducing some types of crimes like property crime, for acting as a deterrent in car parks or in other public places, and for making citizens feel safer. However, the results are mixed when addressing violent crimes and when the crimes involve alcohol. CCTV alarm systems

In the UK, where an average person may be watched 300 times a day by the prevalent closed circuit television systems, numerous case studies paired with crime statistics have been used by Britain’s Home Office to determine the effectiveness of these CCTV systems and to see how well CCTV saves time and money for their police force. In fact, from 1999 to 2001, the British government spent £170 million (approximately $250 million) for closed circuit television security schemes in town and in city centers, car parks, crime hot spots and in residential areas.

Keys to evaluating CCTV systems

According to Coretta Philips of the Home Office Policing and Reducing Crime Unit, CCTV systems are evaluated using these identifiers which help police pinpoint where and when the CCTV security camera systems are most beneficial.

Caught in the act — When potential offenders fear being recorded by the CCTV cameras for courtroom purposes, they usually abandon any idea of conducting a crime.

Publicity — If the CCTV camera schemes are public knowledge, then the would-be offenders may leave the target area, but may head to another area. Home Office data found that in the days leading up to the CCTV system activation, crime went down due to the increased publicity. However, if the publicity of the CCTV system is private, then offenders may be more likely to be deterred because they may think that CCTV security cameras may monitor other areas as well.

Effective deployment of law enforcement officers — CCTV systems increase the response time of police officers to the incident scene before a member of public has to call the police. According to data compiled in 2004 by the Home Office, CCTV operators can determine how many officers to send to the scene and the CCTV surveillance cameras can indicate what the offenders are doing at the scene before the police arrive.

Time for crime — If the offenders think that they can complete their crime before the CCTV systems can record it, then the police will have less chance at capturing the offenders. For example, if car thieves know that the security camera’s angle, range and speed are limited, they might determine how to best avoid the CCTV security cameras. However, the Home Office CCTV data has shown a reduction in car thefts in car parks, revealing that some offenders may still be captured on camera despite the speed of the crime.

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