Author:Tony Swaine B.A. (Hons) M.Sc. Chester 8th May 2012



C.C.T.V. and The Myth of Reassurance



(Brief) Synopsis Of Research 1990-2006

Including Work Carried Out For the Home Office
By Martin Gill and Angela Spriggs "Assessing The Impact Of CCTV"

For The Research, Development and Statistics Directorate
Published February 2005



Read The Latest Research:August 2007

Money Wasted On CCTV | Effectiveness Of CCTV | CCTV pushes crime elsewhere | Recommendations






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Preamble


In a report to the Scottish Office on the impact of CCTV,[Home Office Report 2005 see FOOTNOTES:] JasonDitton, Director of the Scottish Centre for Criminology, argued that the claims of crime reduction [due to the camera surveillance] are little more than fantasy. "All [evaluations and statistics] we have seen so far are wholly unreliable"; The British Journal of Criminology described the statistics as "....post hoc shoestring efforts by the untrained and self interested practitioner. " In short, the crime statistics are without credibility. "

He continues: "The crime statistics reflect the hypothesis that CCTV merely displaces criminal activity to areas outside the range of the cameras. One of the features of current surveillance practice is that the cameras are often installed in high-rent commercial areas. Crime may be merely pushed from high value commercial areas into low rent residential areas".


Hundreds of millions of pounds have been wasted on the installation of CCTV cameras across the country, in the last twenty or more years, with little or no reduction in petty crime rates or wanton vandalism.


CCTV does NOT, and has never had, the expected or predicted effects it's fans said would occur, and CCTV does not do what it was intended to do: That is, to prevent crime in urban areas of the country.


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The Time Money And Resources Wasted On CCTV Installations, does not justify any of the apparent improvements to the 'quality of life' of those on council estates, or the effectiveness for reducing crime in the inner cities. . . the 'means' do not justify the 'end'!


What follows is a more sober and considered assessment conducted for those who care to keep themselves informed by the current facts, on the effectiveness of CCTV surveillance.


The ignorant and lazy attitude of councils and businesses and the police for a 'quick fix', and the mad headlong rush to install cameras in almost every urban space in the country, has been a shameful misuse of money and resources! A more intelligent, practical and realistic approach to solving urban problems would have led to better and more effective remedies being discovered and implemented, and the crime reduction claims being made by CCTV proponents are not convincing.


"What we really have is a myth of reassurance. However, the irony is that people are more afraid of crime than ever." [Ditton et. al.]

Draft Report
Too much time and money has been spent, and continues to be spent, on CCTV as the so-called 'solution to street crime', without justification, and this crazy expenditure on CCTV is now acknowledged as an over-simplistic solution to a complex problem. [Ditton et. al.]

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FROM an initial rapturous, and enthusiastic reception in the mid 1980's, the effectiveness of CCTV's use as a weapon to prevent or reduce crime rates in city centres and council housing estates is now discovered to be tiny or non-existent.
Indeed the amount of time, money and energy spent by the various councils, the police, and the vested interests that continue to 'talk up' and exaggerate its usefulness is almost a crime in itself!

N.B. an exaggeration is something said which not true - something which is not true is a lie; therefore we have been systematically lied to about the effectiveness of camera surveillance!


The real reason so much has been wasted, was and continues to be, is to try to convince people "we-have-the-answer-every-one-has-been-looking-for!" by showing the people that they (Councils and the police) have been 'busy', by installing 200? 2000? (more? less?) cameras in West-Cheshire in the past decade.

CCTV installation was and still is, the 'easy option' (and the lazyman/woman's way out!), for councils and the police, to blithely continue to carry on installing cameras everywhere, without stopping to check or consider their value as a weapon in 'the fight against crime'. "There is stronger evidence that street lighting stops more crime than CCTV; and CCTV does little to prevent crime, although it does have some limited crime detection use " according to the very latest Home Office Report.



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The crime reduction claims being made by CCTV proponents are not convincing. Three recent criminological reports (Home Office Feb 2005, Scottish Office and Southbank University) have discredited the conventional wisdom about the CCTV camera's effectiveness.

It is blazingly obvious, that for CCTV surveillance to be fully useful, effective; efficiently and effectively run, it is necessary for the CCTV images of each of the cameras to be of high quality. The cameras should also be monitored for many hours a day.

Is this done anywhere in Chester? By whom? Is a visual record kept for each of the cameras, and are the images stored, if so what device are they stored on, and where are they stored? How long are these images kept? Is this done? Who does it in (and for) Blacon and Chester City? How much does this all cost? Where are the receipts?


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Conclusions:

Although anyone can point to an individual account of CCTV having a beneficial influence, the overall result of more than sixteen years of study shows that the introduction of CCTV in communities like Blacon has little or no effect on the overall local crime rate.

The money and resources currently taken up with this useless exercise should be channelled elsewhere - see recommendations below.

Is such surveillance the responsibility of the police or the council or the private sector? How can the citizen find out these details? Where are the results of this monitoring, and based on the analysis and interpretation of the images, what policy or what action has been implemented? Have the authorities used the information they have from their cameras to improve our neighbourhood over the past 15 years? If not, why not? If not what use are CCTV cameras?

The pictures have to be analysed, interpreted and then a policy has to be devised, implemented and consequently action has to be taken.

Recommendations:


Further Research:

More extensive research is needed before we continue to pour money away on the 'magic solution' of CCTV.


See The Latest Research:August 2007

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Research Sweep 1990's - 2006:
Chapter and Verse…

In a report to the Scottish Office on the impact of CCTV, Jason Ditton, Director of the Scottish Centre for Criminology, argued that the claims of crime reduction are little more than fantasy. "All (evaluations and statistics) we have seen so far are wholly unreliable"; The British Journal of Criminology described the statistics as "....post hoc shoestring efforts by the untrained and self interested practitioner." In short, the crime statistics are without credibility.

The crime statistics rarely, if ever, reflect the hypothesis that CCTV merely displaces criminal activity to areas outside the range of the cameras. One of the features of current surveillance practice is that the cameras are often installed in high-rent commercial areas. Crime may be merely pushed from high value commercial areas into low rent residential areas.

Councils often find that it is impossible to resist demands for such systems.


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There is an additional element of displacement that should be of particularly concern to all communities. Since the growth of CCTV as the primary means of crime prevention, more traditional, community based measures have been discarded.

Professor James Ditton, of the Scottish Centre for Criminology, says the cameras have not lived up to their early promise. After four years of monitoring the monitors, the professor has called for an independent watchdog to oversee the use of the technology.

The centre of Glasgow alone is screened day and night by 32 cameras.

"It has been over-hyped and I think that is one of the problems," Prof Ditton told BBC Scotland,

"It was allegedly going to give us these magnificent benefits of reducing crime and making the fear of crime diminish to almost nothing."

"Although it probably does have some utility for the police it does not have these wonderful great societal benefits, so we really question whether the benefits it does bring us justify photographing everybody who goes into the city everyday".


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Professor James Ditton: "The cameras were vastly over-hyped."

He argued that since the Glasgow cameras were switched on in 1994 crime had fallen more sharply elsewhere than under their gaze. He said street surveys had shown people do not feel any safer now.

Professor Ditton also said the cameras had not proved cost effective, producing just one arrest every 40 days.

"We were very surprised by the findings. We had done some previous research in Airdrie where CCTV started in Scotland and where we found there was quite a significant fall in crime after the installation of the cameras," he said. Systems have been "over-hyped"

"To be honest, we expected to find the same in the Glasgow and we were very surprised to find it didn't really happen."

The report said there had been no sign of the investment, jobs or visitors it was promised the cameras would generate.

But because CCTV systems are spreading across the country and some have a wide focus, the professor is advocating the creation of an independent watchdog to monitor the way the cameras are used.

'Vastly over-hyped

He (Professor Ditton) said people might begin to question whether they want the police secretly to tape them in public.

"The cameras were so vastly over-hyped as a magic bullet cure for everything when they were introduced, that we were all blinded to the fact that this was a small addition in police terms, but a rather large incursion in civil liberty terms," said Professor Ditton.

"The Scottish Executive believes that the majority of CCTV schemes help to prevent crime and allay public concerns," he said.

And a Scottish Executive spokesman said while the government was disappointed with the figures in the research, it still believed that CCTV made a significant contribution to cutting crime.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/394021.stm


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UK Home Office releases research on CCTV effectiveness

Home Office Research Study 292 ‘Assessing the impact of CCTV’

Authors:Martin Gill; Angela Spriggs

Home Office Research, Development and Statistics Directorate Feb 2005 Full 176 Page Report

The full report is available on the Home Office website

http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/pdfs05/hors292.pdf -- o0o --

Invasion Of Privacy:

Relevant extracts From the Home Office report are shown below.


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The presence of CCTV did not discourage people from visiting places. Only one per cent of respondents said they avoided places once CCTV had been installed."

"The proportion of respondents happy or very happy about having cameras in their area declined in nine areas following their installation; in five of these the reduction was statistically significant. However, the level of support of CCTV remained high at over 70 per cent of the sample in all but one area."

Concerns regarding the implication for civil liberties decreased slightly following the implementation of CCTV. Whereas 17 per cent of respondents expressed such concern prior to its installation, this declined from two to seven percentage points post CCTV installation."

http://www.privacyinternational.org/article.shtml?cmd[347]=x-347-167206

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The logic and the statistics are superficially impressive, but some analysts are not convinced.

In a report to the Scottish Office on the impact of CCTV, Jason Ditton, Director of the Scottish Centre for Criminology, argued that many claims of crime reduction are little more than fantasy. "All (evaluations and statistics) we have seen so far are wholly unreliable", The British Journal of Criminology went further by describing the statistics as "....post hoc shoestring efforts by the untrained and self interested practitioner ".

A Scottish Centre for Criminology report on CCTV in Airdrie was unable to rule out displacement as a factor.

While various studies in other countries indicate that burglars and other criminals will travel long distances to commit crimes.

Discussing the justification for establishing a surveillance system of 16 cameras in Manchester, Gordon Conquest, chairman of the city centre sub committee of Manchester Council, candidly admitted "No crackdown on crime does more than displace it, and that's the best we can do at the moment."

The Crime Prevention Unit of the Home Office appears to agree. In 1993 it suppressed the findings of a survey on the crime impact of camera surveillance on the basis that the displacement effect had been all but ignored.


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In other words, crime may be merely pushed from high value commercial areas into low rent residential areas. One of the features of current surveillance practice is that the cameras are often installed in high-rent commercial areas. Councils often find that it is impossible to resist demands for such systems. The trend is fuelled in part by the insurance industry, which in some towns is offering a thirty per cent reduction in premiums to local retailers who pay a contribution to a CCTV levy system. A nation-wide insurance discount scheme is currently being negotiated, and should be in place by 1996.

The Time Money And Resources spent, is now seen as a waste of effort.
And some police now also concede that CCTV only displaces crime; that is, it moves it around!

Richard Thomas, Acting Deputy Chief Constable for Gwent, recently told the BBC's Andrew Neil that he believed CCTV pushed some crime beyond the range of the cameras. And in his interview with 20/20, Leslie Sharp said, "Certainly the crime goes somewhere else. I don't believe that just because you've got cameras in a city centre that everyone says 'Oh well, we're going to give up crime and get a job".

Can CCTV reduce crime?"


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Three recent criminological reports, according to the Privacy International website (www.privacyinternational.org), have discredited conventional wisdom about effectiveness. The director of The Scottish Centre for Criminology argues that claims of crime reduction are little more than fantasy. The British Journal of Criminology described the statistics from Strathclyde as "post hoc shoestring efforts by the untrained and self-interested practitioner". And the crime statistics rarely reflect the hypothesis that CCTV merely displaces criminal activity to areas outside the cameras.

"There is stronger evidence that street lighting stops more crime than CCTV," says Gareth Crossman. "CCTV does little to prevent crime, although it does have some limited crime detection use.

What we really have is a myth of reassurance. However, the irony is that people are more afraid of crime than ever."

http://www.seered.co.uk/cctv.htm


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See The Latest Research:August 2007

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Bibliography:


  1. Home Office Research Study 292: ‘Assessing the Impact of CCTV’
  2. Authors:Martin Gill, Angela Spriggs

    Home Office Research, Development and Statistics Directorate Feb 2005

    Full 176 Page Report

    The full report is available on the Home Office website

  3. Davies, S (1996) Big Brother.
  4. Ditton, J (1996) Does Closed Circuit Television Prevent Crime? Scottish Centre for Criminology, HSO Edinburgh.
  5. Gabor, T (1978) "Crime displacement The literature and strategies for its investigation", Crime and Justice, Vol. 6 no. 2 p.105.
  6. City life, July 27 1994

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FOOTNOTES:

  1. http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/pdfs05
  2. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/394021.stm
  3. http://www.seered.co.uk/cctv.htm


Article By: tony.swaine@hotmail.com December 2010
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