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Surveillance Cameras as Weapons in the War on Crime and Terror

Jul 29, 2008
Police departments throughout the United States and elsewhere have boosted their usage of surveillance cameras, to battle crime and the war on terror. Recently, The New York Police Department planned to install 3,000 private and public security cameras in Manhattan alone. That will add to roughly 4,200 cameras that already exist in the area. The security cameras would be used to track terrorists. The figure of 3,000 cameras will include over a hundred license place readers in the region's financial district.

However, the city is taking measures to ensure that the data collected will be used judiciously. For instance, the footage will be stored for 30 days, and then it will be recorded over or tossed out.

Battling crime in the city

Besides New York City, large U.S. cities, including Los Angeles and Chicago have also boosted their use of public security cameras. These video cameras have a night-vision feature and can be remotely controlled to perform such actions as zooming, rotating, etc.

But the question remains: exactly how effective have the cameras been in fighting crime and terrorism? The Chicago Police Department (CPD) reveals that for a timeframe of roughly 18 months, beginning in 2006, the security cameras have resulted in over 1,200 arrests. Studies show that the cameras (which can also be used in the private sector), are most effective when they remain in locations for at least six months. In fact, some residents have complained when local surveillance cameras have been removed!

Surveillance cameras have also become prevalent in areas outside the U.S. In a 1993 case in Britain, two 11-year-old children were videotaped kidnapping a two-year-old. Since then, the British government's use of security cameras has exploded from 10 units in 1991, to over 4 million today.

Used and useful?

But are the cameras actually cutting crime? Several studies have indicated that the use of the cameras generally resulted in a marginal-to-small decrease in crime rates.

Instead, the main benefit of the surveillance camera is its ability to document what happened during crimes and terrorist attacks. The events of a crime can be analyzed and the perpetrators can be better identified. Nevertheless, many critics of surveillance cameras argue that police departments' use of security cameras should not steal the rights of law-abiding citizens.

One tool among many

Still, security cameras have been particularly effective in certain cities. Crime has dropped 35% in the housing projects of New York City, New York; and 37% in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The surveillance camera can certainly be effective as one tool among many, in fighting crime and the war on terror. Along with the cameras, traditional methods of fighting terrorism, such as fragmenting terrorist cells, using targeted surveillance, and creating human intelligence, police departments can take a holistic approach to reducing crime locally and nationwide.

When used effectively, surveillance cameras can become an effective tool in fighting the war on crime and terror. The same cameras can also help to protect your family at home; and your coworkers at work. While the cameras themselves must be installed and monitored properly, they can protect the people and things you value, including your own life!
About the Author
Steve Strong's is an employee with Sun Security a leading supplier of
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