The effects of surveillance cameras in public places

Written by erin marissa russell
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The effects of surveillance cameras in public places
Some researchers believe the presence of surveillance cameras makes residents feel safer, which may increase informal social control. (surveillance vidéo image by Bruno Bernier from

Surveillance cameras are used in public areas, small businesses, and on roads to monitor for crime, from burglaries to traffic laws. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, closed-circuit television (CCTV) surveillance "seeks to change offender perception so the offender believes if he commits a crime, he will be caught." In addition to seeking to prevent crime, surveillance cameras also aim to help catch criminals after the fact.

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Marcus Nieto of the California Research Bureau said, "The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court noted that 'this type of surveillance provokes an immediate negative visceral reaction: indiscriminate video surveillance raises the spectre of the Orwellian State.'" However, he notes that police officers would patrol the same public areas the cameras survey. According to the New York Civil Liberties Union, dissenters claim the cameras are so widespread as to create an infrastructure that is not being overseen or held accountable by any governing entity.

Offender Awareness

Since surveillance cameras in public areas are not always monitored, their effectiveness depends on public awareness of the camera, as well as individual offender awareness. A 1992 study by Honess and Charman published in "A Review of CCTV Evaluations: Crime Reduction Effects and Attitudes Toward Its Use" found that 45 per cent of people surveyed in a town centre did not believe surveillance cameras were effective in reducing fear of crime. In addition, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, the theory behind the effectiveness of surveillance cameras hinges on the rational thinking of potential criminals, who might be mentally ill or under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.

Detection Through Surveillance

Surveillance cameras in public places can be used either to review footage and find information to help make an arrest or to detect and respond to crimes as they are occurring. The success of these techniques is dependent partially on the availability of responding resources.

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