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Are Video Surveillance Cameras Really Effective?

Jul 17, 2008
Cities are a hive of activities. People go to schools, do their business, drive around traffic, and sell various things. Unfortunately, a city is also a thriving environment for notorious people and lawbreakers. It is not uncommon in any city that is everyday news about robberies, murders, speeding, DUI, or any other crime.

Due to the presence of these crimes and activities, law enforcement has developed ways and technologies to apprehend or at least monitor the perpetuators. For example, state police monitor regularly monitor freeways on the lookout for drug traffickers. Some policemen are assigned to go undercover and risk their lives during a stakeout. Other crude yet ingenious ways include placing realistic cardboard cutouts of police cars or officers to discourage criminals from doing their crimes! After all, a criminal would hesitate when he sees a police unit before committing a crime.

New technologies include the development of nonlethal weapons and the improvement of exiting technologies, such as, complicated databases and citizen identification. One of the more controversial technologies is the video surveillance camera. These cameras are located in many public places where police think that crime is most likely to happen.

In theory, video surveillance cameras can deter or even prevent crime. In theory, they are able to provide evidence for a crime. But do these theories really sound as good as they are?

To gauge how efficient surveillance cameras prevent crime is a somewhat problematic issue. That's because there are a lot of vague variables to take into consideration. No matter how skilled policemen and investigators are, they can't entirely be conclusive that a crime has been planned just because something suspicious came up in the surveillance report. In fact, other factors, such as, law enforcement strategies, the city's economy, and even the season can contribute to such vagueness.

For example, a recent study shows that since 2006, seventy-three cameras that are installed in the general Washington, DC area have never recorded footage that has helped solve crimes. For the local government, this has been a pain in the neck since it has invested millions of dollars for such equipment only to find out that the system is not as efficient as it was predicted.

So are CCTVs useless? It's far from it. Knowing that there are hidden cameras around, criminals now think twice before doing their nefarious crimes. In fact, the New York police department stated that along with increased police patrols, video surveillance cameras have made the crime rate in the Big Apple drop to 30 percent. This is especially true in high-crime neighborhoods such as in the Bronx.

Other U.S. cities reported the same results. For example, in New York city's urban housing centers, crime dropped at 36 percent. In Baltimore, crime rate dropped at 17 percent; in Philadelphia, 37 percent.

Aside from the more nefarious crimes, the presence of these cameras also reduced auto-related crimes and accidents by as much as 41 percent. And, of course, they are always helpful for post-crime investigations.
About the Author
Steve Strong's is an employee with Sun Security a leading supplier of
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