The mainstream media has been awash with stories of the ineffectiveness of CCTV in light of a recent report conducted by The Campbell Collaboration. 'Effects of Closed Circuit Television Surveillance on Crime' is a meta-analysis of 41 CCTV evaluations in four main settings: city and town centres; public housing; public transport; and car parks.
Below is a selection of articles:
- The truth outs – CCTV doesn't cut crime - The Guardian
- Big Brother isn't working: How £500m of CCTV cameras does 'next to nothing' to cut crime - Daily Mail
- CCTV only effective at cutting car crime - Daily Telegraph
- CCTV only effective at cutting car crime - The Metro
- CCTV schemes in city and town centres have little effect on crime, says report - The Guardian
- CCTV ‘is failing to cut crime’ - The Sun
The Campbell Collaboration report, a summary of which is to be made available to UK police forces this summer, concludes:
Exactly what the optimal circumstances are for effective use of CCTV schemes is not entirely clear at present, and this needs to be established by future evaluation research (see below). But it is important to note that the success of the CCTV schemes in car parks was mostly limited to a reduction in vehicle crimes (the only crime type measured in 5 of the 6 schemes) and camera coverage was high for those evaluations that reported on it. In the national British evaluation of the effectiveness of CCTV, Farrington (2007b) found that effectiveness was significantly correlated with the degree of coverage of the CCTV cameras, which was greatest in car parks. Furthermore, all 6 car park schemes included other interventions, such as improved lighting and security guards [emphasis added]. It is plausible to suggest that CCTV schemes with high coverage and other interventions and targeted on vehicle crimes are effective.
Conversely, the evaluations of CCTV schemes in city and town centers and public housing measured a much larger range of crime types and only a small number of studies involved other interventions. These CCTV schemes, as well as those focused on public transport, did not have a significant effect on crime.
This is what No CCTV and others have been saying for some time - CCTV is not an effective crime fighting tool. And this is not the first report to reach this conclusion - a similar Home Office study in 2002 said the same thing. But rather than halt CCTV expansion in the wake of such reports CCTV use has increased. The Home Office will call for more studies in the hope that one will give the answer they want. But the important thing to take from this latest report is that it is up to the public not the government to halt CCTV expansion.
Decisions about CCTV installation are made at a local level by local councils. The public must take on board the findings in this study. Many people believe that they are trading a little bit of freedom for increased security or crime prevention - this simply is not true. We must hold the custodians of public money to account. We must demand that they prove the case for CCTV with real evidence to back it up before wasting yet more money on this illiberal technology. It is up to all of us to stop the spread of surveillance before it is too late.
As Sir Ken Macdonald QC, the outgoing Director of Public Prosecutions warned last year with regards to the growing surveillance state:
[...] we should take very great care to imagine the world we are creating before we build it. We might end up living with something we can't bear.