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Public Video Surveillance and Street Crime: Can One Prevent the Other?

Sep 7, 2008
The late great Charles Kuralt once wrote about the argument that television news can never be quite true to life because the camera's presence alters events. Luckily for him, this argument saved his life and those of others once in the then newly-liberated-from-Belgian-domination Congo; out-to-kill Congolese soldiers acted differently when camera and lights where present.

But can knowledge of the presence of video surveillance cameras operated by the government on a 24/7 basis deter crime in the streets?

Public Spending

Usually, the video surveillance systems you see are paid for by public funds and maintained by public personnel. When you see clearly visible surveillance cameras in the streets, some of which rise as high as 27 feet off the ground, you can bet your bottom dollar that you help installed and maintained them through your taxes.

These surveillance cameras are predicated on public safety and welfare, with the assertion that you and the rest of the law-abiding majority will be safer from street criminals. Cameras should deter people from committing crimes simply because a picture tells a thousand words and moving pictures with DVD definition tell a damning story. But will the ideal "should" equal the real "could"?

Public View

Since you shoulder part of the cost for video surveillance systems, you have to be able to express your opinion on them. Even among your circle of friends and family, opinions differ. Let us take a look into these and you can decide for yourself.

* The presence of video surveillance cameras can prevent crime simply because criminals will think twice about having damning evidence on their heads. It is like what Charles Kuralt wrote.

On the flip side, cameras do not deter crime simply because criminals can and do move into non-surveyed areas. Even for Big Brother, cameras can only see so far. These are short-term deterrents at most.

* You need not fear crime when 24/7 cameras are around. After all, nobody particularly likes to be recorded committing crimes and having these footages slapped before you in the court of law.

For most people however, surveillance cameras do not necessarily decrease fear of crime. Indeed, you should not feel any less vigilant for your personal safety in and outside your home, public video surveillance notwithstanding. Much as you would love otherwise, crime never rests.

* Public surveillance systems can monitor anti-social behavior, aid in solving traffic problems, and assist in identifying violators. In Britain, some surveillance cameras are equipped with loudspeakers that call the attention of people who litter the streets, ride their bicycles in pedestrian areas and other anti-social actions; just imagine having somebody you cannot see reprimanding you in front of so many people and you get the feeling. In major US cities, surveillance cameras help traffic controllers ensure the safety of motorists.

But and there are always buts in this case, surveillance cameras can imperil your privacy. You can be the target of discriminatory targeting, voyeurism, stalking and blackmail. Did you know that colored people, women and subjectively kooky individuals are often the targets of disproportionate attention from camera operators? It is human nature, if you will.

Given all these pros and cons, you should be able to decide whether you want video surveillance systems installed and maintained by your taxes in your neighborhood. Take into consideration that these cameras have 360 degree capacity, have high-definition quality and can detect movements as far away as a mile away.
About the Author
Like every human invention, a surveillance camera and a wireless security camera have their benefits and flaws. Learn more about how video surveillance affects you at Video-Surveillance-Guide.com today!
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