This project was undertaken by an external, independent researcher to explore, and provide information about, an issue or topic. Opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police or the Government of Canada.
University of Ottawa
Research and Evaluation Branch
Community, Contract and Aboriginal Policing Services Directorate
Royal Canadian Mounted Police
The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police or the Government of Canada.
Faced with the demand that they develop more efficacious security measures and find more cost-effective crime prevention strategies, law enforcement agencies around the globe are, now more than ever, turning toward technological systems to enhance operational capacities, extend their reach and reduce costs. In this context, CCTV surveillance systems have been adopted for use in public spaces in many countries. While these systems were originally embraced for their deterrent effect on crime and touted for their salutary effects on public fear, the fact is that no body of scientific evidence actually existed at the time they were adopted that could either support or refute claims to such effects. Today, the situation is different: there is a significant body of research on CCTV, though it must be acknowledged that the literature is still in its nascency and hence, that many questions are left unanswered. Notwithstanding this caveat, it is quite clear that there is a need for an independent assessment of the record of evidence in order to determine what we know about the effects of CCTV. This review is a response to that need and describes what we know about the impact of CCTV on crime and crime prevention; on the criminal justice system more generally; and, on the public's feeling of safety.
The review shows that the effects of CCTV on crime are both quite variable and fairly unpredictable. Deterrence effects of CCTV are not constant over time and they vary across crime categories. For example, CCTV systems appear to have the least effect upon public disorder offences. The magnitude of deterrence effects appears to depend on location: the greatest effect appears to occur in car parks. Furthermore, the cameras do not need to be operational for deterrence effects to be observed. The deterrence effects of CCTV are highest when it is used in conjunction with other crime reduction measures and when tailored to the local setting. Finally, while deterrence effects have been shown before the cameras are operational, continuing publicity is required to maintain the effects.
The studies describe a number of aspects of CCTV at the level of operations that are problematic in terms of the broader aims and constraints placed on the criminal justice system. To be more specific: CCTV monitoring is discriminatory and the use of CCTV systems raises a plethora of profiling issues. In addition, contrary to common supposition, there is no simple correspondence between the discovery of a criminal activity and the resulting deployment and arrest. Furthermore, there is little evidence to support/contradict claims of increased conviction rates. Finally, a paucity of research on impact of CCTV in criminal justice proceedings
Finally, the research on the impact of CCTV in the public sphere shows that CCTV generally increases feelings of safety and that it also reduces fear of victimization. While the public is generally supportive of CCTV are not concerned about the impact of CCTV on privacy, some evidence suggests there are concerns about profiling.