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CCTV & Crime

Updated on December 7, 2009

Having worked behind a bar for a good portion of my life, generally in the role of manager, I have always been a strong advocate for security cameras. My logic was that when dealing with a controlled substance it was always a good idea to have the deterrence of a closed circuit camera system, especially in light of many thefts being crimes of convenience. Curiously enough, certain studies do show that publicly placed cameras do minimize some ‘opportunistic crimes’, but not all.

Studies done worldwide by groups such as The Campbell Collaboration, introduce the allowance of something called ‘displacement’ of crime. Displacement as defined by Encarta Dictionary (MSN, 2009) means ‘movement from usual site’. Now when dealing with something as capricious as crime for any study to say that the placement of security cameras in one area decreases or increases the amount of crime without considering neighboring areas crime rates would be an immense error on the part of the study as well as the results of such. If a criminal, or anyone for that matter, needed to steal something in order to be able to eat they would find a way, camera or no camera. Another example is when surveillance cameras are taken into account during the commission of a crime, such as in the case of Kenneth Moreno and Franklin L. Mata, two New York City police officers indicted of raping an intoxicated woman in N.Y. They actively avoided the security camera after they saw it, yet still committed a crime after the fact of noting the camera. The other thing to consider about public surveillance cameras is whether or not the footage is actively being viewed by actual people. Video analytic programs are technologically advanced enough to detect crimes taking place in an area such as a well lit parking garage, but not advanced enough to detect a crime taking place in an area with a lot of motion and other components. One item all of the studies agree upon is that the presence of surveillance cameras in conjunction with other factors such as well lit streets and alleys, officers walking more ‘beats’, and community members actively participating with law enforcement by communicating potential crimes taking place all together reduce the rate of automobile crime – but no other forms of crime can legitimately be considered deterred by the presence of surveillance cameras.

Unlike in a bar environment where a few cameras can cover all possible problem areas, it is impossible for public surveillance cameras to cover all potential crime areas. The evidence does support that the presence of cameras does not deter crime, they only force criminal to be more savvy about how they commit crimes and more selective about where the crimes are to be committed. Regardless as to whether there is a camera present or not, crimes will, and do occur.

© 2009 D A Moore


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