Five years ago, Cory Doctorow of The Guardian made a bold claim: video surveillance does not deter crime or violence. She cites a study from the U.S. which involved a street lamp post equipped with a CCTV camera in an attempt to try and deter crime. It went not quite as expected, as the crime merely shifted down the street from where the CCTV was installed. It didn’t “deter” crime in a technical sense.
But, the effectiveness of video surveillance isn’t as direct, if one should look deeper. Various security companies, including GoldyLocksInc.com, don’t always sell them without good reason.
A study conducted by Cornell University researchers sheds a bit of light. It reviewed a total of 44 studies which measured whether CCTV helped reduce crime in three different locations: parking lots, housing developments, and public transportation systems. It found that CCTV was more effective in parking lots, tallying a 51 percent average decrease. Public transportation comes in second with a mere 23 percent. In other public settings, the difference is imperceptible.
These samples, however, were quite small and insignificant when applied on a larger scale. The Urban Institute, an economic and social policy research firm, did a much larger study. Theirs covered three major cities: Baltimore, Chicago, and Washington D.C.
The institute found that CCTV did manage to reduce crime, though not everywhere. They concluded that the mere presence of cameras is not enough. Several important factors, including the amount of systems employed, where they’re set up, how well they’re monitored, and how officials balance utility and privacy concerns play a part in the overall battle for crime. In short, the users of these CCTV systems must understand how to use the technology properly.
Perhaps the biggest concern with security cameras is their positioning. Experts claim that they must be adequately pointed at four major points: entrances/exits, transaction points (where most of the main activities take place), targets (stashes of valuables or things like cash registers), and secluded areas.
Positioning cameras at these locations should be of great help not only in deterring crime, but also solving it. All in all, CCTV cameras are incredibly handy — if someone knows how to properly use it.