How effective are CCTV cameras as a proven crime control and prevention measure? Describe the crime control literature which attempts to assess their efficacy and evaluate the impact such studies have had on overall proliferation of these systems. Illustrate your answer by reference to both official reports and academic and NGO studies supporting or contradicting such claims.
This essay will aim to critically discuss CCTV cameras as a proven method of crime control and prevention tool. In order to analyse academic, official and Non Government Organisation (NGO) studies, it is important to consider the rise of CCTV. CCTV is the one of the fastest growing forms of surveillance and crime control in the UK. CCTV was gradually diffused throughout the retail and transport sectors to the public domain. In 1991 there were no more than ten cities with open street systems in operation;
these systems were set up individuals on the basis of entrepreneurship. (Dutton and Short 1998) The tragic death of James Bulger brought the importance of CCTV into public spotlight, images of Bulger being led away by two boys were reoccurring on national news each day, in hope the perpetrators would eventually be caught. (Smith 1994)
This therefore saw a publicised moral panic. The response was the increase of CCTV systems around the UK. Responding to this, the Home Secretary, Michael Howard, developed the ‘City Challenge Competition’. Two million pounds of government funding would be thrown at this new initiative. Government saw 480 applications, even with the budget increasing to 5 million, but only 106 applications were granted. (Cited in Norris et al 2004)
The high demand for CCTV in the public realm saw the competition re-open between 1995 and 1998. This time £31 million of government funding and £54 million of partnership funding, (local businesses and European regeneration grants) was used to develop the scheme. 580 applications were granted. (Cited in Norris et al 2004) This therefore saw the 1990s crime prevention schemes being dominated by CCTV as a form of prevention. Welsh and Farrington claimed that three quarters of the government budget was allocated to the use of CCTV. (2005; 500) In 1999 Labour set aside £53 million in support of the CCTV expansion for England and Wales and £17 million for Scotland.
Thus it is not unreasonable that Norris et al estimated a £250 million spend on CCTV in the 1990s. (2004) In contrast industry statistics show that in the early 1990s the total value of CCTV was £100 million and increased to £361 million in 1998. (Evans 1998; keynote, 2003:8) By 2002 market analysts reported that there was an annual growth between 14% - 18%. (Security Installer 2001, 2002) However more recent forecasts show that the growth has decreased to around 8% per annum. (Security Installer; 2004)
Norris and Armstrong estimated that in an urban environment, a person could have their image captured on 300 CCTV cameras on 300 separate CCTV systems (1999;ch 3) They also estimate from a survey conducted in London, that there may be as many as 4.2 billion CCTV cameras in the UK. This equates to 1 camera per 14 members of the population. (McCahill and Norris; 2003, cited in Norris et al 2004) There has clearly been an expansion of CCTV worldwide, however Urbaneye found that 40% of institutions in London had cameras in a public domain, where as this figure was notably lower in Berlin.
(21%) In Berlin there was a few as 15 open street systems in an accessible public space, however in London this was found to be a staggeringly higher amount. (500). The reformist ideals of the criminal justice system are beginning to focus on ideals such a ‘opportunity reduction’, ‘situation prevention’, and ‘risk management’ (C.F: Feely and Simon 1994) This is therefore leading CCTV to be the new penology for crime control. (Norris et al, 2004) There have been positive reports of crime reductions since the introduction of CCTV. Strathclyde police force in Scotland claimed they had seen a 75% crime reduction since the CCTV system was installed in Airdrie. (Privacy International; 1992)
The government believes that CCTV deters opportunistic crime such as , vehicle crime, burglaries and robbery. Research assessing the effectiveness of CCTV; confirms that it is effective in reducing property crime such as burglary and robbery. The ‘rational choice theory’ can be used to explain this belief. This theory suggests that, delinquent individuals seek to maximise their profits and reduce their losses. This is dependent on the information that is available to them at the time of committing the offence. (Cornish and Clark 1985) CCTV then, reduces the opportunistic gain and increases the risk of being caught. (Armitage 2002;
3) However Jason Dutton, Director of the Scottish centre of Criminology stated that glowing reductions in criminogenic behaviour since implementation of CCTV systems, is a fantasy (Privacy International; 1992) Dutton’s statement could be rationalised when reflecting upon crimes such as public disorder. Reflecting back to the rational choice theory: Crimes that have involved alcohol consumption appear to reduce the perpetrators ‘rationality’, and thus the risk of being caught in CCTV is reduced. (Armitage 2002; 3)
CCTV cameras are creating high levels of conviction. According to privacy International, nearly everyone who recorded by CCTV committing a crime pleaded guilty. For example, In Newcastle, the installation of 16 camera system resulted in a 100% increase of guilty pleas. Privacy International also found that some districts are now reporting that delinquents are admitting offences at the mere mention of their actions being recorded. (1992) According to the Great Manchester Police describe a number of ways how CCTV has helped them detain suspected criminals.
The control room at Mill Gate Shopping centre has assisted in the arrest of sex offenders. Inspector Charlotte Cadden from East Bury Neighbourhood Policing Team said; “The CCTV cameras are instrumental in helping us with our enquiries on a number of occasions, which in turn are helping us keep shoppers safe.” (GMP; 2010) According to Big Brother Watch, there has been a 71% fall in the amount of crimes in the Metropolitan Police area. This fell from 416 000 in 2003/2004 to 121 700 in 2008/2009. This therefore suggests that CCTV is instrumental in crime reduction and crime prevention. The issue of displacement of crime as a result of CCTV surveillance is also a reality. A current feature of surveillance practice is to affix the cameras in high-rent areas.
This may result in the crime being pushed from one area to another, for example; into council owned residential areas. Displacement should be of real concern since the traditional community based measures have been neglected for electronic surveillance. Some police also conclude that CCTV displaces crime. (Cited in Privacy International; 1992) The displacement of crime through CCTV means that once the opportunities for criminogenic behaviour are minimised in one area, that behaviour will be displaced to another community, or offenders may change their choice of crime. (Armitage 2002; 3) Therefore crime is moved, and not in fact reduced. This could go towards explaining the stark reductions in crime in particular areas over a short period of time; and the minimal fall in national criminality.
Furthermore, it must be noted that some offenders are not deterred by CCTV. (Butler; 1994) An increase in crime figures could be attributed to, Welsh and Farrington, who suggested that CCTV may cause reported or actual crime to increase through more reporting to the police and police recording (2003; 111) Gill et al (2005) conducted research that involved 14 case studies of CCTV systems in different locations. Of the 14 schemes involved in their research one 1 case show a statistically significant reduction in crime that may have been linked to CCTV. Many other of the cases show rises in crime. Moreover; the cost of the scheme to be implement of shocking.
The least expensive was ‘Dual estate Area B’ which cost £ 43 237 and the scheme with the highest cost was ‘Haykeye’ at £3 381 572. (Gill; 2005; cited in Goombridge 2008; 76) In the present economic climate, is seems difficult to justify the spending on surveillance systems that appear to have a minimal positive effect. Groombridge et al, publicised a warning that suggested that the arrest and conviction of offenders may be statistically positive through fighting petty and opportunistic criminogenic behaviour; meanwhile their ‘professional counter-parts get away, then this is hardly the positive outcome it might appear on the surface’ (1994b; 287) Another concern that Groombridge has raised is that the effect of ‘bystander indifference’.
The reassurance of the public may go too far and leave the feeling of ‘Big Father’ who has sorted everything out. (1994b, 288) This may therefore give people a false sense of security and discourage precaution taking that they might have done previously to the implementation of CCTV. (Welsh and Farrington 2003; 111) According to a report written by the Campbell Collaboration, an international research network, suggested that CCTV does have significant effect on crime; although this is only modest by statistical nature. It also suggested that it should be use to target niche crimes opposed to the widespread operation that is currently ongoing.
The report also suggested that future CCTV schemes should develop a good quality evaluation process with long follow-up periods. (2008;2) When the phenomenon of CCTV first emerged the emphasis was on crime control and crime reduction and perception of crime. Since then there has been contrasting research which suggests that CCTV is not effective as seen above. Also, initially the government stated that ‘if you’ve got nothing to hide then you’ve got nothing to worry about.’ (Home Office 1994) Recently, there has been a shift in government policies.
CCTV is now also concerned with the regulation of anti-social behaviour. Regardless of current research, this has encouraged CCTV to spread from central business districts to other areas; such as estates and neighbourhoods. Since 9/11 and 7/7 there has been a number of changes that have advanced the abilities of the CCTV systems; (Webster 2009) these include number plate recognition systems and facial recognition systems, which are to be set up and used alongside human workers.
(Webster 2009) These policy creeps and surveillance creeps have enabled the development of a network of surveillance systems to emerge. (Lyon 1994) It could be argued that it was always the government’s intention to develop such an intense and sophisticated surveillance network. However the challenge for the government now will be how to manage this in such a way, that they retain public support.
The recent shift in policy is reflecting the real threat of terrorism and upholding national security. So now CCTV has numerous roles, crime prevention and community safety, prevention of terrorist attack and information gathering in the form of intelligence. Evidence based policy making may have derived from the constant criticism of the effectiveness of CCTV. Its intention now is to develop a sound evidence base whereby further policies can be developed, and to improve practice. However the problem with this is, whether the evidence is robust and accurate when making financial decisions and decisions regarding resources. (Clarence 2002)
The government has adopted a no nonsense stance in policy making, suggesting it is what works that matters. (Webster 2009) Lindbolm (1959) suggests that policymaking reflects ‘muddling through. Pawson goes as far to argue that evidence used in policy making can never be objective because all knowledge is relative and developed in social situations and context. (Pawson 2006) In contrast to this, the Oxford Policing Policy Forum presented the question ‘Too Much Surveillance?’ The forum discussed the issue of anti-social behaviour and the ineffectiveness of CCTV to monitor and prevent this.
The report highlighted that one piece of research found a crime reduction rate of only 5%, whereas street lighting saw a reduction of 20%. (OPPF 2008) The Oxford Policing Policy Forum reiterated that there does not seem to be any compelling evidence that CCTV is significantly effective in crime reduction and prevention of anti-social behaviour. (4; 2008) Moreover, this would suggest that moving towards a robust evidence-based system would not increase positive crime reduction statistics to warrant further erection of CCTV systems. What may be suggested though, is that the government should consider other preventative methods.
Street lighting for example gives a reduction in criminogenic behaviour of 20%. (OPPF 2008) The forum goes on to say that too much surveillance technologies may in fact undermine confidence in the government, law enforcement agencies and police. (5; 2008) Confidence and trust is important in maintaining positive relationships between authorities and local people. This is particularly evident in the current ‘Hoodie’ culture among young people. Wearing their hood up masks their face thus CCTV is unable to detect their identity. (OPPF; 2008; 6)
This culture evokes fear and intimidation among communities. Local policing to target such anti-social behaviours may be more cost effective and restore and maintain the powerful symbol of authority In reflection, Gill and Spriggs (2005) stated that CCTV was introduced to combat the fear of crime opposed to crime itself. It appears from research that CCTV is at its most effective when there is an active police interest in monitoring the CCTV and using the evidence it can provide. (NCCPP; 2) It appears that CCTV as solitary method of crime control and prevention will have lower results than a combination of preventative methods. Farrington and Welsh found that street lighting also assists in reducing crime.
Both CCTV and street lighting have a much more positive impact on crime in enclosed environments such as cark parks; and thus assists in reducing vehicle crime. (2004) The Home Office itself also admitted that ‘the belief that CCTV alone can counter complex social problems is unrealistic in the extreme’ (2010;6) Crime rates appear not to be good measures of effectiveness. It could be argued that the preoccupation with statistics had led to a move away from what the real objective is and placed more emphasis on public support of the CCTV system. It is therefore criminologically correct to place doubt on statistical crime figures.
However CCTV does give rise to a number of more positive factors for future consideration; ‘the importance of area, the density of cameras, success against acquisitive crime, the scope for special initiatives, the relationship with the police, the conjunction of other crime prevention measures, the level of lighting, the level of monitoring and the issues raised by the redeployable systems’ (Goombridge 2008; 78) Murray and Goombridge (1994) did not conduct a vast amount of research but offered advice to the government; based on working through the issues that have arisen since the implementation of CCTV.
This has not been implemented and as a result money has been wasted. (Goombridge 2008; 78) The government is now taking an evidenced based approach to policy making, with added considerations that CCTV should reflect national security in respect of terrorism threats. A proposal from evaluating literature may be to move away from budget allocation to CCTV development and to increase police street patrols, to secure community belief in enforcement and prevention and towards a more personal approach. Finally, ‘feeling good about crime prevention and actually achieving something may turn out to be different things’ (Davies 1995; 62)
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