Pros & cons of surveillance cameras on the streets

Written by sebastian malysa
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Pros & cons of surveillance cameras on the streets
Security cameras can now directly stream their recordings to the Internet, simplifying real-time monitoring. (Thinkstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images)

Street cameras, also known as closed-circuit television (CCTV), are becoming more abundant for monitoring city streets. Shortly after the inception of CCTV, public debate erupted, questioning the validity and usefulness of the surveillance technology. Regardless of the public's approval or disapproval, street cameras, according to National Institute of Justice journal, are on the rise throughout the United States.

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Preventing Crime

The main purpose of surveillance systems in the streets is to deter criminal activity and inappropriate social behaviour. However, crimes are displaced to less prosperous areas without street cameras, creating a crime ghetto affect, according to Adrienne Isnard's Australian Institute of Criminology paper. Furthermore, security cameras contribute to the evolution of crime. Criminals are adapting to surveillance technology and preforming crimes in a less detectable manner making criminal investigation more challenging. Currently, no evidence exists to suggest that street surveillance actually prevents crime.

Reduction in Policing

Street cameras were designed to help overwhelmed police forces monitor and patrol city streets in growing metropolises. Isnard argues that security cameras create a false sense of security which leads to a lower expectation for how many police are required to physically patrol streets. In fact, areas with high concentrations of street cameras tend to experience a significant reduction in policing. A camera can record a crime taking place, but it can't stop the crime if a police officer doesn't arrive on time. Monitoring the surveillance camera feed causes mental fatigue which makes it easy for an observer monitoring several feeds at once to overlook a crime.

Promote Public Safety

Security cameras can make people feel safer and can lead to an increase in foot traffic in areas where people might not otherwise walk around. More foot traffic increases "natural surveillance;" people look out for one another, which further promotes safety and deters criminal activity. Moreover, if the camera feed is monitored properly, officers are effectively deployed to the problem area. Deployed officers receive details about the crime that they might not otherwise get which can help them respond more effectively.

Identifying Criminals

Surveillance cameras in the streets help in identifying criminals. Advances in face recognition software, according to the National Institute of Justice journal, help narrow possibilities significantly when identifying the perpetrator. Furthermore, facial recognition technology reduces the amount of attention required by monitoring staff, improving the efficiency of the monitoring process by freeing observers to focus on multiple tasks. If perpetrator identification isn't possible, the captured footage plays an integral role in providing clues that help give direction to an investigation.

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