Success rate of CCTV in crime detection very little

Success rate of CCTV in crime detection very little
Highlights

Success Rate of CCTV in Crime Detection Very Little. CCTV systems are being projected as an effective method to maintain public order. The police department states that this technology could be a solution to problems such as vandalism, burglary, sexual harassment.

CCTV cameras are only as intelligent as the intelligence provided to them

CCTV systems are being projected as an effective method to maintain public order. The police department states that this technology could be a solution to problems such as vandalism, burglary, sexual harassment, terrorism and disorderly behaviour. Indeed, when a CCTV system is installed there seems to be an expectation from the public that all crime and anti-social behaviour would reduce. The fact that pervasive security cameras don't substantially reduce crime has been demonstrated repeatedly with statistics.

"A surveillance camera can operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. It does not need a holiday, maternity leave and rarely goes sick. But it doesn’t actually do anything. It is the operators that produce the results required," said a security guard from a software company.

It is unfortunate that though lakhs of rupees are being spent on CCTV systems, there is actually little evidence of the success of CCTV in combating and deterring crimes. This lack of evidence doesn't necessarily mean that CCTV monitoring is not useful.

Although it's comforting to imagine that vigilant police monitor the footage from every camera, the truth is very different. For a variety of reasons – be it the technological limitation of the cameras, or the organisational limitations of police and the adaptive abilities of criminals – no one looks at most of the footage until well after a crime is committed. When the police do look at the recordings, it's very common for them to be unable to identify suspects. Criminals don't often stare helpfully at the lens and usually move around wearing sunglasses and hats.

A shop owner was upset that people were climbing onto the roof of the premises and were vandalising his property. Obviously, the cameras did not capture the events on the roof as they were aimed at the street. After a few discussions with the shop owner, it was determined that the offences he talked of only happened on Saturday nights, and a camera was installed to take in a view of the roof and was monitored twice an hour on a Saturday evening. Eventually, the perpetrators were caught.

This example serves to highlight the fact that CCTV cameras are only as intelligent as those operating them or, to put it another way, the intelligence provided to them. Unless a comprehensive audit of where crimes and vandalism are actually occurring in an area proposed to have surveillance cameras installed is undertaken, it is difficult to pre-determine where the cameras should look and to evaluate their effectiveness.

A survey by a research organisation, where jailed offenders were asked whether they were aware of the CCTV cameras present at crime sites, revealed that 16 per cent had known, 53 per cent said there weren’t any CCTVs. 31 per cent did not know whether CCTV cameras were present or not and did not care much. This relatively high figure suggests that for a good number of offenders, CCTV systems do not figure highly in any risk assessment undertaken prior to committing the offence.

When the offenders were asked if they would have committed their offences knowing the CCTV cameras had been operational, 48.2 per cent said no, 27.7 per cent did not know and 24.1 per cent said they would still have offended (and this rises to 40 per cent for juvenile offenders), suggesting that some offences may be prevented whereas others will still occur.

CCTV monitoring can promote public safety and does so. This is also partly because the CCTV increases 'natural surveillance' in that people, who are less fearful of crime because of the cameras, increase their usage of the area. It may be a fine line to draw, but as long as the police realise that their presence is a must, CCTV monitoring could become an integral part in preventing crime and deterring anti-social elements.

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