Center for Problem-Oriented Policing

Conclusions

Although much of the professional literature from manufacturers tends to over-hype CCTV's benefits, robust evaluations (where they exist) are apt to be more circumspect. Companies that produce surveillance systems claim unqualified success, while cautious academics often say the opposite59. As noted from one study, "open-street CCTV can 'work' in limited ways, but is not a universal panacea. It works in different ways in different situations"60. The evidence suggests that CCTV works most effectively when bundled with a package of other situational preventative measures61. That CCTV is often implemented with other measures makes conclusive evidence of CCTV's effectiveness difficult to confirm.

Media manipulation may place an important role in advertising a system, help increase public knowledge, and, therefore, reduce fear of crime. It may also inform offenders and increase their risk of perception. Advertising success also helps to maintain offender wariness as well as reinforce feelings of public safety (and the perceived knock-on benefit of economic improvement).

Conclusions about effectiveness that can be cautiously drawn are:

  • CCTV works best in small, well-defined sites (for example, public parking areas) rather than across large areas (such as housing estates)
  • CCTV is more effective in combating property crime rather than violence or disorder
  • A close relationship with the police will improve system effectiveness
  • A good quality CCTV system can aid police investigations

Finally, you should consider the impact of a CCTV system from a societal view. It has been suggested that ever-increasing surveillance can make the local environment a less pleasant place to live62. Of course, it may also reduce fear of crime and increase public participation in public space. This may be an acceptable benefit from the ongoing costs of a CCTV scheme.