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Recently (2013) the College of Policing published a summary of a review into the effectiveness of CCTV, titled ‘The effects of CCTV on Crime – What Works Briefing’ It’s a brief and to the point report which looked at CCTV systems installed in town centres, residential areas and car parks as a situational crime prevention measure, rather than those used covertly to gather evidence or the cameras you might have around your home.
The results of the review were:
Car Parks: Marked and statistically significant reduction in vehicle related crime, BUT in the six studies the CCTV was accompanied by improvements in lighting and increased security staff
Town centres: Small reduction in crime, but not statistically significant enough to draw conclusions about the effects of CCTV
Public Transport: The combined results of 4 studies showed a significant decrease in crime, BUT this was driven almost entirely by the system introduced onto the London Underground. ‘Overall the findings are ambiguous and not statistically significant’.
Public Housing Estates: Small reduction in crime, but not statistically significant.
Another interesting finding is that whilst CCTV seemed to reduce car crime it does not reduce violence. But then violence often involves people who are drunk and irrational and wouldn’t think about their actions being captured on cameras.
The briefing’s conclusions however, which you can read for yourself, seem to be more upbeat than the findings.
What is not commented upon (or at least I didn’t see it) was the help it can give police officers who have been directed to a suspect or the scene of the crime. The CCTV operator can sometimes let the police know important information about the suspect’s description or whether he or she might be armed and so is an invaluable tool for police officers’ safety.
The briefing mentions that there is little research to show whether CCTV is helping the police solve crime – which is extremely disappointing when you consider how many millions has been spent on it!
Overall I am an enthusiastic supporter of all forms of CCTV, but as the briefing says ‘CCTV is likely to work better [at preventing crime] as part of a wider strategic approach’, which is another way of saying that CCTV alone is unlikely to do the job. This also tells me that if CCTV is going to be part of your solution, be it for a house or an entire town centre, a thorough understanding of the problems at hand must be your starting place. A closed circuit television system can deliver results so long as your planning has been thorough, the equipment purchased and the installation is fit-for-purpose and your expectations are realistic. Always think about a system’s operational requirement and, especially for larger systems, make sure it is regularly evaluated against the same.