Crime detection and prevention is the major objective of any government so that a nation can thrive peacefully. Crime events are curbed and controlled by CCTV and police so that people leave comfortably and engage in productive activities that boost economic growth. Nevertheless, it is the responsibility of any given government to make sure that it provides a safe environment for social and economic welfare. Police often find it difficult to maintain law and order in each and every corner of their patrol. Therefore closed-circuit television (CCTV) has been proven more efficient in fighting against crimes compared to police patrols. These surveillances are also cheaper since one CCTV can provide security to a place that requires six security officers to maintain security. CCTV are more effective than police officers since they provide immediate alerts in case of a crime event and also provide physical evidence of the crime scene. This essay will examine the effectiveness of CCTV in crime prevention and also evaluate its effectiveness critically about cost, privacy, society, and terrorism.
CCTVs save a country a lot of money since all they are network cables that carry data and power. Data is transmitted in the form of videos. The transmission of data is done using the IP networks which are cheap. In recent research conducted by Big Brother 2005 on cost effectiveness, there was a comparison between CCTVs and police officers (Lyon, 2002 p. 249) The research shows those police officers are much expensive than cameras. According to a report from the UK in 2005, the annual cost of CCTV per camera was ranging from 600 the cheapest to the most expensive one which cost was 3000 pounds. This means that the expense of a single camera is 1/15th to 1/80 the cost of a police officer annually when training, equipments, and other benefits are included. An average police in the UK is paid 2300 pounds yearly. When this cost is compared to the expense of a CCTV is like one cop versus dozens of CCTVs cameras. The UK is now using IP networks which are cheaper than analog systems that used fiber. The reduction in the cost of CCTV changes the cost of CCTV annually making the comparison to police to be a single police officer for a hundred cameras.
In 2007 Baltimore CCTV conducted a review on the number of CCTVs cameras deployment and their impact. According to the review, CCTVs has reduced 15% crimes because of proper and active monitoring. This means that the CCTVs are useful in solving crime issues (Berry & Carter 2003 p. 99). Some people do not like the idea of increasing the number of CCTV cameras despite the fact that they are cheaper than police officers. They feel that more police officers to be employed so as to fight crime. Increasing the number of police officers does not guarantee a decrease in criminal activities in urban areas. The experts must try and use the advanced technology to minimize the cost per a CCTV camera.
Two elements are used to reduce cost. First, stop additional funding on CCTVs whistles and bells. Second, leveraging IP networks which are cheap than any other network.
The counter arguments state the following;
1. CCTVs may create false attention coming from false alarms. This may hinder its effectiveness to reduce crimes in urban areas.
2. CCTV does not deter criminals from committing crimes. This is because a CCTV is left alone on the outside to provide security with no police or guard. People do not fear the cameras, and hence this makes them commit crimes.
The public feels that CCTV cameras invade their privacy. This is because the government and private cameras watch their every move even in their personal space (Holtzman, 2006. P. 34) In America certain groups of people in the society are observed more than others. No matter how a person wants privacy on his/her private time, it is becoming harder to get it due to the CCTVs cameras installed almost in every corner. Sometimes the public has no idea what the cameras are looking after for example, the recent discovered CCTVs in North Yorkshire which is the biggest watching base in the whole world owned by Americans. The people have little information on what the spy base tries to monitor. Counterblast documentary by Simon Davis describes the death of privacy life since it shows that all forms of movement and communication after monitoring and analyzing using computers in UK and America passes through Mean with Hill so that they can detect any suspicious content (Davies, 2000 p. 307).
With the progress in technology, the government has also installed CCTVs cameras with auto recognition features in America. The software can recognize everyone faces and cars number plates on all roads. It means that they keep track of every individuals movement from one place to another (Introna, 2000 p 35). This has minimized the citizens privacy to zero. Although the government pays a higher amount for the software, the public pays the biggest price because their privacy is no longer in their control. The government of UK is continuing to increase the number of CCTV surveillance all over the country, means that the citizens will not go without the authorities and the government noticing their every step. According to Parker 2004, a person leaving his/ her home going for work would be noted and also as he/she come back in the house. All activities any do, for example, web surfing, communication through the phone is being monitored. The people will be paying the government for security at the expense of their privacy. The society needs to choose between privacy and safety. With the growth of surveillance, the trust of the people in the monitor is in doubt. Nevertheless, safety in the society is a major factor, and hence the citizens have to accept the fact that their privacy is limited.
The community feels more secure when there are CCTVs cameras around the city than when they are not installed. The surveillance deters crimes in almost every place where people operate. These places include schools, roads traffic, railway stations, residential areas, hospitals and stadiums (Armstrong & Norris, 1999 p. 33). The people can operate their business safely because they believe that someone is keeping watch of their business and properties. Society supports the claim that CCTVs are useful since they keep security on them making the criminals to fear to commit crimes (Brown, 1995 p. 73). They provide a safer working environment at homes and also at working areas making the public comfortable at their job places. However, as much as CCTV cameras claim to reduce crime levels, the reduction is not as high as the society would expect them to be. Professor Ditton, a scholar for criminology in Scottish Centre, stated that closed CCTVs Surveillance system in urban cities and town centers have failed to bring a reduction in crime expectations (Parker, 2000 p. 194).
Society feels insecure of having cameras all over watching them since some bad people can take advantage of this. A real instance is an incident that happened at Harvey Nicholls store in London when CCTVs was used to capture Lady Diana leaving the store capturing her appealing figure (Armstrong & Norris, 1999 p. 300). The footage of uploaded in the YouTube by the operator making the society to lose their trust in CCTVs cameras. The CCTVs surveillance creates class division in the society; this is illustrated by Armstrong and Norris on their study in the United States. Operators of CCTVs began to concentrate more on one type of people than the others. This discrimination is based on sex, age, and the skin color. The research illustrated that only 35 percent of white people were put under CCTV surveillance while 80 percent of blacks in America was regularly monitored for no valid reason. Johnston and Williams (2000) observe situations of systematic, socio-economic reporting and selective racial by CCTV workers who direct their camera at social groups that they think as being threats to security such as black men (Armstrong &Norris, 1999 p. 140).
The argument against CCTV state that they give people a false sense of protection and this can be very dangerous since it makes them more vulnerable if they fail to take care of themselves. The society also feels that they pay a lot for CCTVs system with little or no impacts. Tony Blair, a Prime Minister in England, expanded the number of CCTV network in England in 2000 using over 150 million pounds of public funds (Parker, 2000). London Liberal Democrat carried out a study in London which revealed that over 200 million pounds had been used to on CCTV cameras only. The society opinion was that this was a misuse of the money they pay through taxes which should be used to provide necessary social amenities. The society feels that Police officers would be enough to protect them aided by few surveillance cameras (Farrell, 2007). The cost of maintaining the CCTVs systems and their misuse by the operators make the society question their effectiveness in crime reduction.
Terrorism being a significant threat to any country the policy makers has recognized the effectiveness of camera surveillance to counter terrorism effectively. The effectiveness of CCTV cameras is measured by their ability stop or prevents terror attacks (Awan, 2011 p. 198). After London attacks which took place in 2005, the effectiveness of camera surveillance to combat terrorism was greatly debated. The booms exploded on 7th July 2005. They exploded on the three famous underground trains in London. There was another bomb explosion on a bus that led to the killing of 52 customers and four people suspected to be perpetrators. CCTV footage is the only source that identified the four suicide perpetrators. This shows its effectiveness in terrorism. According to the British Broadcasting Corporation 2005 b, terrorists attempted another attack to bomb the Public Transport System in London, but the only explosion was on bombs detonators. CCTV pictures of the four terrorists were released soon after the attacks. The images were used to arrest the bomb attackers (British Broadcasting Corporation, 2005c).
CCTV use ANPR cameras that take pictures of license plates of different cars make it easier for officers to identify terrorists. In France, Alliot-Marie declared that to combat street crimes and terrorism the number of video surveillance will be tripled by 2009 (Reuters, 2007 p. 203). Some opinions have been argued against CCTV ability to combat terrorism saying that it suspicious individuals evade areas with cameras and that it only recognize a perpetrator at the action of attacking. Terrorist leaders nowadays are recruiting more women than men who are less suspicious for attacks in future. This makes it hard to recognize the terrorists.
Reuters (2007). France to Strengthen Video Surveillance System. P.201-205). Discussion Paper. October 12. Available at www.reuters.com (Status: September 2011).
Norris, C. and Armstrong, G. (1999). The Maximum Surveillance Society: The Rise of CCTV. Oxford: Berg Publishers.
Awan, I. (2011). Terror in the Eye of the Beholder: The Spycam Saga: Counter-Terrorism Or Counter Productive? The Howard Journal of Criminal Justice 50(2), 199 - 202.
British Broadcasting Corporation (2005a). London Attacks: In-Depth Report. BBC News, U.K., July 12. Available at news.bbc.co.uk (Status: September 2011).
Farrell, G. (2007), Situational Crime Prevention and Its Discontents: Rational Choice and Harm Reduction versus Cultural Criminology. Social Policy & Administration 44(1), 40- 66.
Berry, G & Carter, M. Assessing Crime Prevention Initiatives: The First Steps. Crime Prevention (1992) Unit Paper 31. London: Home Office.
Brown, B. (1995) Closed Circuit Television In...
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