Study: CCTV not as effective as previously believed

The British are much more of a surveillance society than any Western democracy and have invested heavily into CCTV. It’s been a helpful tool in identifying people quickly though in terms of actual prevention, there is none. Adding CCTV to a new location is easy but monitoring everything is much more resource intensive and it will never replace feet on the street. For me it’s always creepy to think about how many times per days I’m being picked up on CCTV while visiting the UK. Researchers estimate the average person is picked up 300 times per day. What ever happened to privacy?

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.

The authors, who include Cambridge University criminologist, David Farrington, say while their results lend support for the continued use of CCTV, schemes should be far more narrowly targeted at reducing vehicle crime in car parks.

Results from a 2007 study in Cambridge which looked at the impact of 30 cameras in the city centre showed that they had no effect on crime but led to an increase in the reporting of assault, robbery and other violent crimes to the police.

Home Office ministers cited the review last week in their official response to the critical report from the House of Lords constitution committee on surveillance published earlier this year. The peers warned that the steady expansion of the “surveillance society”, including the spread of CCTV, risked undermining fundamental freedoms, including the right to privacy.

The privacy issue somehow slipped away years ago and for what? There is no perfect solution but CCTV is so invasive and the return is not there to substantiate the high cost.

An American in Paris, France. BA in History & Political Science from Ohio State. Provided consulting services to US software startups, launching new business overseas that have both IPO’d and sold to well-known global software companies. Currently launching a new cloud-based startup. Full bio here.

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