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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

CCTV in the news ... again

From Governing.com - Long Lens of the Law

"... Camera boosters insist that cameras reduce crime. Any city that has had CCTV in place for a while can show off a highlight reel of local perps caught on camera, sometimes in quite dramatic situations. But while anecdotes of crimes solved and averted are plentiful, many researchers say the record doesn't add up to a compelling case. Recently, professors Brandon Walsh, of the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, and David Farrington of the UK-based Institute of Criminology, surveyed the research on CCTV and came away underwhelmed. They found that the presence of cameras is associated with mild declines in crime—particularly in the UK—but that video surveillance is strikingly effective at only one thing: protecting cars from vandalism in parking lots. A recent study of cameras at 19 sites in San Francisco found that the presence of cameras reduced property crime committed within 100 feet of the cameras—but were ineffective at greater distances and had no effect on violent crime.

As the use of CCTV expands and evolves, however, cities are using cameras in strikingly disparate ways that are bound to yield different results. Many police departments rely on cameras primarily for their value as a deterrent, leaving them unwatched most of the time and pulling the hard drive to aid investigations only after an incident has occurred. The city of Washington, D.C., uses them mostly for special events, and deploys cameras only sparingly in neighborhoods because of privacy concerns ..."

"... Baltimore's use of CCTV represents still another approach. The stealthy live monitoring that goes on at Citiwatch supplies street cops with a constant stream of real-time intelligence. As Commissioner Bealefeld puts it, Baltimore has made its cameras into "a proactive crime-fighting tool." At least one independent assessment agrees. According to a forthcoming evaluation by the Urban Institute—the first rigorous study to compare CCTV deployment in multiple American cities—crime in downtown Baltimore has dropped by 24 percent since the cameras went in. Moreover, researchers found no evidence that crime was merely being displaced to other parts of the city.

"The [Baltimore] police figured out that cameras on their own don't prevent crime, people do," (emphasis added) says Nancy La Vigne, a senior researcher at the Urban Institute. Instead of treating the technology as a crime-fighting tool all its own, Baltimore has moved aggressively to integrate CCTV into its conventional operations. In particular, says Bealefeld, the department has used the cameras to target robberies and "bad guys with guns." ..."

Read the entire article by clicking here.

1 comment:

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