NO CCTV - Surveillance Watchers and operator biases
Proponents of CCTV will often say that surveillance camera operators are not interested or do not have time to watch law abiding citizens as they go about their daily business. Research tends to suggest this is not always true.
Image by Dana Mendonca
In their book 'The Maximum Surveillance Society: The Rise of CCTV' Clive Norris and Gary Armstrong found evidence of CCTV operator biases. These findings have been published in a 'Open-Street CCTV in Australia: A comparative study of establishment and operation A report to the Criminology Research Council', Department of Criminology, University of Melbourne, April 2003.
Norris and Armstrong's (1999) detailed ethnographic study of control room operators raised some issues of concern. Part of their larger project involved a detailed study of the 'social construction of suspicion' by camera operators - what they term the 'working rules' used by camera operators to sort through the myriad of images transmitted and to select targets for surveillance. They noted that women accounted for only 7% of those placed under surveillance, and suggest this may reinforce the argument of Brown (1998) that CCTV may undermine the security of women in public areas by providing the rhetoric of public safety without the reality. Moreover they noted that 15% of operator initiated surveillance on women was for voyeuristic reasons: a finding that would seem to support the argument of those who object to CCTV as 'a honey pot for perverts' (Davies 1998: 248).
Norris and Armstrong also revealed surveillance was disproportionately targeted towards black and working-class youth. They argue that rather than making public spaces free from the risk of criminal victimisation, CCTV can act to amplify unjust and discriminatory policing. Additionally they noted that guarantees that individuals would not be monitored without reason were mostly hollow rhetoric (1999: 151). Detailed observation study in control rooms was beyond the scope of the present study, although the concern that similar monitoring practices are conducted in Australia has already been raised (Crane & Dee 2001).
Better community reduces crime, technology does not