Street lighting is more effecting than CCTV-Study

2010-11-23
THE PUNCH Newspaper

From the days of old, crime has remained an integral part of human society and over the years, there have been various preventive measures to curtail it. Apart from the creation of correctional facilities and rehabilitation centres, to fight against crime, countries such as Britain, USA and many other parts of Europe have employed the use of technological surveillance equipment. The most used and trusted technological anti-crime equipment is the video camera surveillance, Closed-circuit television.



CCTV is the use of video cameras to transmit a signal to a specific place, on a limited set of monitors. It differs from broadcast television in that the signal is not openly transmitted, though it may employ point to point, point to multipoint, or mesh wireless links.



While almost all video cameras fit this definition, the term is most often applied to those used for surveillance in areas that may need monitoring such as banks, casinos, airports, military installations, and convenience stores.



CCTV is not a novel invention. The first CCTV system was installed by Siemens AG at Test Stand VII in Peenemünde, Germany in 1942, for observing the launch of V-2 rockets. German engineer, Walter Bruch, was responsible for the design and installation of the system.



Also, CCTV as an anti-crime technology was first used in the USA in 1968.



In recent years however, no other nation in the world has used CCTV more than the United Kingdom. The exact number of CCTV cameras in the UK is not known but a 2002 working paper by Michael McCahill and Clive Norris of UrbanEye, based on a small sample in Putney High Street, estimates the number of surveillance cameras in private premises in London to be around 500,000 and the total number of cameras in the UK is around 4,200,000.



Research conducted by the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research and based on a survey of all Scottish local authorities, identified over 2,200 public space CCTV cameras in Scotland.



The CCTV has been instrumental in apprehending criminals as well as preventing crimes. For example, in 1993, CCTV evidence from the New Strand Shopping Centre in the UK helped in the prosecution/investigation of the youngest convicted murderers in modern English history -Robert Thompson (10 years old) and Jon Venables (also age 10) in the murder of James Bulger (aged 3).



Despite its usefulness, recent study in the UK has shown that CCTV may not be as effective as we think. London for instance, has 10,000 crime-fighting CCTV cameras which cost £200m. But a study of the publicly-funded spy network, which is owned and controlled by local authorities and Transport for London, has cast doubt on its ability to help solve crime.



A comparison of the number of cameras in each London borough with the proportion of crimes solved there showed that police were no more likely to catch offenders in areas with hundreds of cameras than in those with hardly any.



In Britain, Hackney has the most cameras - 1,484 - and has a clear up rate of 22.2 per cent. Sutton has fewer than 100 cameras, but Police in Sutton have one of the highest clear-ups with 25 per cent. Brent police have the highest clear-up rate, with 25.9 per cent of crimes solved between 2006 and 2007, even though the borough has only 164 cameras.



The figures appear to confirm earlier studies which have thrown doubt on the effectiveness of CCTV. In fact, four out of five of the boroughs with the most cameras have a record of solving crime that is below average.



The figures were obtained by the Liberal Democrats of the London Assembly, using the Freedom of Information Act.



Dee Doocey, the Liberal-Democrats’ policing spokeswoman, said, “These figures suggest there is no link between a high number of CCTV cameras and a better crime clear-up rate.



“We have estimated that CCTV cameras have cost the taxpayer in the region of £200m in the last 10 years, but it’s not entirely clear if some of that money would not have been better spent on police officers,” she added.



Earlier studies backed by the Home Office reveal there is little scientific evidence to show that CCTV cuts crime.



The study revealed that CCTV cuts crime by a ‘small degree’ while improved lighting in public spaces can make crime-rates plummet.



One report said, “CCTV had a significant desirable effect on crime, although the overall reduction in crime was a rather small four per cent. It was found that CCTV had no effect on violent crimes, but had a significant desirable effect on vehicle crimes.” In urban areas, CCTV had a ‘negligible’ effect on crime, leading it to fall by two per cent, it said. But cameras in car parks led to a significant 41 per cent fall in crime, it added.



On the other hand, a separate study found that street lighting in Britain cuts crime by 30 per cent, although when other studies from the US were taken into account, the figure fell to 20 per cent.



Street lighting is up to seven times more effective than closed-circuit television systems at reducing crime, Home Office research shows.



Studies found that CCTV cut crime only by a “small degree” but improved lighting in public spaces can reduce offences by almost one-third.



It said, “Street lighting benefits the whole neighbourhood rather than particular individuals or households. It is not a physical barrier to crime, it has no adverse civil liberties implications and it can increase public safety and effective use of neighbourhood streets at night.



The figures appear to confirm earlier studies which have thrown doubt on the effectiveness of CCTV cameras.



A report by the criminal justice charity, Nacro, in 2002 concluded that the money spent on cameras would be better used on street lighting project, which has been shown to cut crime by up to 20 per cent.






 

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