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10,000 Cameras Ineffective At Deterring Crime 414

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the clearly-we-need-more-cameras dept.
Mike writes "London has 10,000 crime-fighting CCTV cameras which cost £200 million but an analysis of the publicly funded spy network has cast serious doubt on its ability to help solve crime. In fact, four out of five of the boroughs with the most cameras have a record of solving crime that is below average. The study found that police are no more likely to catch offenders in areas with hundreds of cameras than in those with hardly any. Could this be an effective argument against the proliferation of cameras or will politicians simply ignore the facts and press ahead?"
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10,000 Cameras Ineffective At Deterring Crime

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  • The answer is... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by llamalad (12917) on Thursday September 20, 2007 @09:32PM (#20691113)
    Politicians will simply ignore the facts and press ahead.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      10,000 not effective eh? lets add 3 zero's onto that! 10,000,000 CAMERAS! haha, try and hide from me now, citizen!
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 20, 2007 @09:54PM (#20691329)

      Politicians will simply ignore the facts and press ahead.
      The politicians aren't ignoring the facts. These cameras weren't bought to fight crime. That is only how they were sold.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jhol13 (1087781)
        Oh yes they were.

        Politicians view of what is crime might be different from yours, but there is no point in wearing a tin foil hat.

        Or, more to the point, politicians view of what is acceptable to "protect the children" most likely is very different of how much "privacy" you are willing to lose.

        Myself? I both love and despise the cameras. They can (and therefore will) be used for good and bad. YMMV.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by tburkhol (121842)
      Politicians will simply ignore the facts and press ahead.

      Let's not pretend this behavior is limited to politicians. In my experience, most people, presented with a sound, logical argument having no supporting facts (or even counter-evidence) and a farfetched argument supported by great detail, will prefer the logical argument. People like for things to make sense more than they like them to be true.
    • by AHumbleOpinion (546848) on Thursday September 20, 2007 @10:13PM (#20691505) Homepage
      Politicians will simply ignore the facts and press ahead.

      Many around here misrepresent and ignore facts as well. That and they have emotional poorly thought out reactions that are rooted more in their politics than it logic. Note the statement:

      "The study found that police are no more likely to catch offenders in areas with hundreds of cameras than in those with hardly any."

      If you apply a modest amount of logic it might occur to you that everything seems to be described in terms of percentages. The fact the percentages may be similar does not mean cameras are ineffective. What is the volume of crime? The absence of such info should make an unbiased reader quite suspicious. Also what were the volumes before the cameras? One of the stated goals of the camera systems is that they would be a deterrent. The volume of crime could be a fraction of pre-camera days and the percentage of solved crimes could be the same.
      • by hedwards (940851) on Thursday September 20, 2007 @10:59PM (#20691895)
        That is correct, one of the things which cameras tend to do, is to push crime to other areas where there are no cameras.

        The other thing is that if people know that there are a huge number of cameras, they are more likely to where hats or utilize other means of being hard to id with cameras.

        I haven't seen the images that the cameras capture, but the images I see from bank robberies and similar when the FBI releases them, are usually grainy and difficult to make out what the person looks like. Good if you want to be incognito as it makes it more difficult to identify scars and such, bad if you want the public to find the person.

        The main thing that a camera system is good at doing is tracking people. And while that is a huge security problem, it can be beneficial to people that have been accused of a crime falsely, as it makes for an easier alibi.

        Overall, though the results don't seem that much different than what one might expect. Even the definition of a below average number of crimes being solved seems a bit tough of a sell, as there really isn't such thing as an average crime, each crime tends to be somewhat different than the others, it could very well be that the dumber criminals moved out, and the smarter ones moved in because of less competition from other criminals for targets.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by dwater (72834)
          > ...a below average number of crimes
          > ...as there really isn't such thing as an average crime,

          average *number of* crimes != average crime

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by symbolic (11752)
          The main thing that a camera system is good at doing is tracking people. And while that is a huge security problem, it can be beneficial to people that have been accused of a crime falsely, as it makes for an easier alibi.

          In other words, it makes it easier to prove your innocence? Isn't that kind of backward?
      • by mosch (204) on Friday September 21, 2007 @01:30AM (#20692861) Homepage
        You'd have a point if this wasn't simply the latest in a string of studies that all showed the same thing.

        Instead of rushing to apply logic, you should have spent a bit more time learning about all the data that was available. If you had done so, you would have realized that this was just another metric that demonstrated a lack of improvement, rather than being the only or even the primary metric that showed no improvement.

        I know, it's an unfair criticism. After all, research is hard, but a pointless and distracting game of "devil's advocate" is easy.
      • by Warbothong (905464) on Friday September 21, 2007 @01:48AM (#20692937) Homepage
        I'm suprised you didn't pick up on this one:

        "In fact, four out of five of the boroughs with the most cameras have a record of solving crime that is below average."

        If I was in charge of using CCTV cameras to try and prevent crime then I would try and put the most cameras in areas with below average crime solving rates. In that case such comparisons are useless, only comparisons with previous rates for those areas would be useful (for instance the crime rate might go down by 10%, but can still be below average).

        I am not defending blanket CCTV coverage, but likewise I can't let such horrible statistic interpretations go unnoticed. After all, pirates stop global warming.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by eh2o (471262)
        Its a marginal probability so the percentages *are* directly comparable. In other words, according to this study fake cameras would be just as effective as real ones for the purpose of solving crimes.

        Whether or not cameras -- real OR fake vs none at all has any effect on crime rate is a separate and independent analysis, but I'd say its highly unlikely, since the basic function of a deterrent is to increase risk, which clearly isn't the case here. Presumably that question has also been addressed, since it
      • I thought something very similar when I started reading the story, but the combinations of boroughs changed my mind. There are so many factors involved in crime clear up rate that this story is still fairly worthless (and it is from the evening standard, who love moaning about anything they can lay their hands on [thesurrealist.co.uk]).

        So, we have 5 'High camera' boroughs, they're all officially classed as inner london and have a correspondingly high crime rate. Of the 5 high camera boroughs, 2 sets of 2 are neighbours, Lewisham and Greenwich and Hackney and Tower Hamlets. Hackney and Tower Hamlets are an interesting pair, one has an above average clear up rate, and one has a lower than average clear up rate. These two boroughs between them (tower hamlets in whole and southern hackney) constitute the East End, traditionally thought of as one of the worst slums in Europe. The area consists mostly of social housing and old victorian terraces (for the gentrifiers), both boroughs have a stonkingly high crime rate (especially Hackney, which has a feirce reputation for drugs, guns and violent crime). Discussing the subtle differences between the boroughs (of which there are many) is outside the scope of the post, my point is that the factors that effect crime are broadly similar, as is the crime rate and number of cameras. Some other factor is effecting the clear up rate.

        As for the low camera boroughs, the average price for a house in 'The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea' is now over $2,000,000US and Sutton is an affluent southwestern suburb flirting with rural Surrey with one of the lowest crime rates in London. Waltham Forest however is home to some of the poorest and most deprived neighbourhoods in London, lying just NE of Hackney.

        My point is that to look at the clear up rate and number of CCTV cameras is really oversimplistic, but that's what the evening standard does.
    • by TheVelvetFlamebait (986083) on Thursday September 20, 2007 @11:07PM (#20691953) Journal
      ... the people simply ignore the facts, and politicians cash in on their fears about crime on the streets.
  • "Could this be an effective argument against the proliferation of cameras or will politicians simply ignore the facts and press ahead?"

    Was that a rhetoric question?
  • Bad statistics. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by solafide (845228) on Thursday September 20, 2007 @09:35PM (#20691133) Homepage

    "In fact, four out of five of the boroughs with the most cameras have a record of solving crime that is below average." All this suggests is that those boroughs have a lot of crime, and as a result extra security cameras were installed. It would be unwise to judge the efficacy of security cameras based on these statistics alone, since surely the very reason the cameras are there is because those areas are already predisposed to crime?

    is the first comment by RandomVisitor on the story at Bruce Schneier's blog [slashdot.org]. It's really quite true; we can't judge based on these statistics whether it's working or not.

  • by gvc (167165) on Thursday September 20, 2007 @09:36PM (#20691147)
    A drop in crime is evidence that the cameras work.

    An increase in crime is evidence that more cameras are necessary.
    • three ways... (Score:5, Informative)

      by SuperBanana (662181) on Thursday September 20, 2007 @09:55PM (#20691337)

      A drop in crime is evidence that the cameras work. An increase in crime is evidence that more cameras are necessary.

      You forgot one: "unchanging crime levels mean the cameras kept crime from getting worse, and removing them would mean an explosion of crime." It'd be like firing cops; no politician who wants to keep his or her office would dare do it, even if it a sound decision. The slightest crime, and victims will blame the official, and the press will be more than happy to stick the microphone in front of their face while they do it.

      The MBTA (which shockingly reversed its decades-old policy of prohibiting cameras on MBTA property) had been going nuts installing "high resolution digital cameras" around the system. Not anywhere on the platforms, mind you- but at the fare gates.

      They blew a lot of smoke to the two competing pulp-journalism freebies (Metro and "Boston Now", which litter the system) about how great the cameras were, how they'd catch anyone jumping fares, etc. Grabauskas bragged about the "high resolution" cameras, and both rags printed images of a guy kicking a gate in (yep. They're that weak- a decent kick will take them out of commission.) The photo was embarassingly bad- you could barely tell it was a guy, and barely ID what he was wearing. The image was low-resolution, blurry, over-compressed, and full of noise.

      Oh, and they didn't seem to help when two kids shot up another kid on the Orange line (the MBTA police's response was to transfer the entire trainload of passengers onto busses and hold them for pat-down searches. This was despite witnesses repeatedly stating that the two shooters immediately fled the scene and left the station. They still haven't been found, months later.)

      Also, if you're in North Station on the platform for outbound, take a look at the couple of cameras situated at the end of the platform closest to the "Garden". You'll note one is a FLIR camera, pointed into the tunnel. What the hell for?

      North Station is also where the MBTA police regularly conduct forced "screenings", usually during rush-hour. For those who don't know: North Station is where people transfer from the orange/green lines to the commuter lines to get home. The MBTA police, like complete idiots, park their vehicles up in front of the station (which is a giant "hey, there's a "random search" thing going on here!" sign), and then stop people trying to get home (where missing a train can mean you don't get home for another 1-2 hours or more.)

    • by Zeio (325157) on Thursday September 20, 2007 @10:33PM (#20691685)
      They take our rights away slowly. First it was less guns less crime. (cities with effective gun bans are the worst in crime, see DC and Chicago.)

      Now its more cameras, less crime.

      10-15 years, there will be no rights here.
      • by gvc (167165)
        Opportunistic analogy. If you look beyond the U.S. borders you will find plenty of jurisdictions that have gun control and low crime. Not to concede your cherry-picked U.S. examples. The bottom line is that you need to study up on the difference between correlation and causality.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Zeio (325157)
          See the Gary Kleck research. You are dead wrong.

          31 of the 33 killed in Virgina by Cho were after the police showed up with armor and SMGs, cringing behind cop cars. One concealed carry would have stopped it.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Zeio (325157)
          The bottom line is that you need to study up on the difference between correlation and causality.

          So do you. Plus, the innate rights of man trump the desires of an authoritarian state.
  • by Pizaz (594643) on Thursday September 20, 2007 @09:37PM (#20691163)
    Once you start arguing effectiveness then all it takes is a new study to show that it's still promising technology and that it just needs to be continued/improved/advanced/made more comprehensive/etc.

    Dont fall into the trap of arguing the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of something that we already know has nothing to do with crime.
    • The story summary is that the cameras do not prevent crime - well of course they do not, nothing you do with an 80% failure rate is going to have an effect on anything.

      That is why the question is, why are they not effective? Does it turn out you simply can't solve crime by having cameras everywhere that see who did it? If so, remove the cameras. Is there a reasonable plan to greatly increase effectiveness? If so, implement it and make sure to set some sort of measurements to see it is working.

      Myself I a
  • by jcr (53032) <jcr@NoSPaM.mac.com> on Thursday September 20, 2007 @09:40PM (#20691197) Journal
    When you gather that much footage, what do you look at? Unless the brits are ready hire a veritable army of people to scan through the video, they'll have to pick and choose what's important enough to look for. The 7/7 bombings were, daily muggings aren't.

    -jcr

    • by Nasarius (593729)
      If you have a specific crime report, why not? Obviously the notion of someone going through countless hours of footage looking for drug deals or something is outrageous, but if someone reports a mugging in an area covered by the cameras, sure, look at the relevant footage for evidence.

      I'm a card-carrying ACLU type, but given proper oversight and rules for their use, I really don't have a problem with police cameras in public places. If the government is abusing them in a creepy Big Brother fashion, you'r
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by aadvancedGIR (959466)
      Just remember that to prevent the 7/7 bombing, they would have to focus on mundane looking people using the public transportation during rush hour. Now tell me how you can do that exactly.
    • by maypull (845051) on Friday September 21, 2007 @06:50AM (#20694281)
      Full disclosure: IUTBAPO (I Used To Be a Police Officer) in the UK. Yeah yeah, on Slashdot that's flamebait and I'll never speak of it again, but I have some valid points to make in response to JCR's post.

      Cameras of the sort used all over the country are run by central control/operations rooms which are manned by civilians employed by the local councils (not cops). They have police radios in the control rooms though so we can speak to them, although they are under no obligation to do as we ask (although in practise, they usually do). There are two points which you may find interesting which I don't think have been mentioned yet:

      1) Normally, the cameras record only one frame every few seconds (presumably so as to not max out their storage on account of the vast number of cameras, heh). Operators cycle through and view them as they see fit depending on the time of day, and if it looks like something's going down, either they or the police can request that a particular camera "go to realtime" recording, so as to capture events at normal speed. However if something such as a mugging happens when the cameras are "idle", if it happens very very quickly it is possible that it won't be recorded at all.

      2) This is the bit that is in response to the parent -- In the event that we (the police) are investigating an incident, we could submit a CCTV request to the control centre, which is a piece of paperwork containing things such as a location, a short description of what (allegedly) happened, and a time bracket. Operators would then go through the recordings manually to try and find it, and if we were lucky it would have been caught on camera, whereupon they would send us a DVD or (more usually) a VCR tape of the relevant parts of the recording. At no time did we, the police, have direct access to the CCTV system, either in a day-to-day sense or in access to the archives.

      I think this is an important point, because it means that the gatekeepers are civilians who are more directly accountable to the elected council representatives, and thus, the people. Of course the usual semi-FUD about cops becoming maniacal power-crazed demons can be half applied to them too, but it makes me think of something I read on /. recently about sysadmins delving through employees emails/files/etc. A semi-prevailing opinion was that while yes, we the admins have the access perms to do it, the cold hard truth is that 99.9% of the time people are boring. What makes you think watching a bunch of people wandering aimlessly around their Saturday shopping is any different?
  • by MyLongNickName (822545) on Thursday September 20, 2007 @09:41PM (#20691205) Journal
    The study (or at least what was published in this article) says nothing about the rate of crimes solved before the cameras. The study doesn't talk about other issues like police force funding Nothing about the demographics of each borough. So while it may be true that cameras don't stop crime or help to solve it, there is nothing in this article to support that assertion.
    • by Erris (531066)

      If you search BBC for CCTV, what you find is nothing favorable. Law enforcement figures consistently say the money would be better spent on normal police work. Studdies never show a real decrease in crime. Demographics don't matter because the cameras are everywhere.

      The only reasonable conclusion is that the cameras are not really about crime.

  • on another hand.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by zome (546331) on Thursday September 20, 2007 @09:42PM (#20691223)
    The study found that police are no more likely to catch offenders in areas with hundreds of cameras than in those with hardly any.

    on another hand, if I want to do crime, I wouldn't want to do it in place that has hundreds of cameras.

    If the cameras help reducing crime rate, then they work.
  • by wes33 (698200) on Thursday September 20, 2007 @09:44PM (#20691243)
    The point of these cameras is not to make people safer, but to make people *feel* safer. Last I heard, the Brits love the things ...
    • by Turn-X Alphonse (789240) on Thursday September 20, 2007 @10:39PM (#20691719) Journal
      I'm English and I for one do not love these things. I feel I need a tin foil hat every time I go on a street and would really rather avoid constantly being on camera (I suppose I'm rather paranoid). It is not that we want them, it is that we have no choice in the matter. Even if we stand up and say no, we get ignored. The politicians don't care what people want and are too busy focusing on Global warming and "British values" currently to even bother worrying about this.

      Cameras = Seem a solution = People vote for them to "solve crime"
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Aceticon (140883)

      The point of these cameras is not to make people safer, but to make people *feel* safer. Last I heard, the Brits love the things ...

      I've lived in several countries in Europe (Portugal, Holland) and i now live in the UK (in London).

      From what i see:
      - Brits are by far the most consumerist people
      - Brits are (again, by far) the most likelly to be into "celeb" news and following "celeb" fashion
      - Prices are higher in the UK than anywhere else in Europe
      - England (at least London) is the most likelly place for peopl

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by TheRaven64 (641858)

        I've lived in several countries in Europe (Portugal, Holland) and i now live in the UK (in London).

        Speaking as a UK resident, I can say that all of your comparisons between London and the rest of Europe also apply to London and the rest of the UK, although the point about celebrity worship and political spin are fairly universal UK-wide (the latter is somewhat better here in Wales, where we actually have some fairly reasonable politicians).

        In all honesty, London is the place in Europe where i get the strongest feeling that i'm surrounded by mindless drones and that most people live life as if they were in a rat race.

        I couldn't agree more.

  • Poor analysis (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Andrew Aguecheek (767620) on Thursday September 20, 2007 @09:48PM (#20691261)

    The cameras are not there to catch criminals, but to deter them. Those who would otherwise be committing crimes in full catchable view of the cameras are no longer doing so.

    Don't get me wrong, I like my privacy as much as the next /.er but accuracy is important.

    • by QuantumG (50515)
      All the evidence shows that people are quite happy to do so because the cameras are such poor quality that you can't even get a face off them.

      It's simply not easy to make a cheap camera that can give sufficiently hi-res and in-focus results.

    • Re:Poor analysis (Score:5, Interesting)

      by lawpoop (604919) on Thursday September 20, 2007 @11:02PM (#20691919) Homepage Journal
      If this really is true, we could easily prove or disprove it. First, make a map of street crimes before cameras. Then, make a map of street crime after cameras. The 'after' map should show holes where no street crime is occurring. These crimeless holes should match up exactly with a map of camera coverage.

      Furthermore, I won't buy arguments that cameras deter crime generally because criminals don't know where cameras are, so they simply stop committing crimes all around. Criminals, though they risk injury and imprisonment in their chosen profession, really aren't stupid. They are clever like a fox -- they find 'safe' areas to prowl and pick 'marks' to target. If they know a camera is in the area, they will avoid it. If you ever doubt that criminals are clever and crafty, overhear a conversation amongst drug dealers and buyers. They know the ins and outs of reasonable search, suspicion, evidence, punishment, and mandatory sentencing.

      "Well, if they are so smart and they know so much about the law, then why do they get caught?" They know ( and learn -- sometimes the hard way ) the risks, and they willingly take them. Getting caught is part of the game. It's like asking, "If investors know so much about finance, why would they ever lose money?" Criminals view it as part of the system. You win some, you lose some. Time in prison is seen by many young black men as part of growing up. Sooner or later, you are going to do time.
      • Re:Poor analysis (Score:4, Insightful)

        by jrumney (197329) on Friday September 21, 2007 @03:15AM (#20693371) Homepage

        Furthermore, I won't buy arguments that cameras deter crime generally because criminals don't know where cameras are, so they simply stop committing crimes all around. Criminals, though they risk injury and imprisonment in their chosen profession, really aren't stupid. They are clever like a fox -- they find 'safe' areas to prowl and pick 'marks' to target. If they know a camera is in the area, they will avoid it. If you ever doubt that criminals are clever and crafty, overhear a conversation amongst drug dealers and buyers. They know the ins and outs of reasonable search, suspicion, evidence, punishment, and mandatory sentencing.

        When a friend asked the police to check the cameras after theft of his motorbike, he was palmed off with "it'll be a waste of time, it'll just show us a bunch of kids in hoods". This shows two things 1) that the police aren't using the cameras to solve most crime, and 2) the criminals are concealing their faces so it doesn't matter if they're caught on camera or not.

  • Because they are stupid - or they would not be politicians. Just look at the ongoing mess they create!
  • Confusion (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Archangel Michael (180766) on Thursday September 20, 2007 @09:54PM (#20691323) Journal
    Don't confuse the politicians with facts, they have demagoguery to accomplish.

    Seriously, when did "facts" actually figure into politics. Everything is emotion. "Its for the children", "War on _______", "help the homeless" etc are all emotional stimuli.

  • Police (Score:5, Insightful)

    by photomonkey (987563) on Thursday September 20, 2007 @09:57PM (#20691363)

    Given the assumption that not all cops are bad, and going further saying that most cops are good, the solution to the crime problem is to get police back on foot in communities.

    You can only stop so much crime blowing through an arterial road at 45mph. But regularly patrolling an area on foot, a good cop will notice that "Mrs. Allison's car is gone, and the front door is wide open" prompting a closer look.

    Also, foot patrol (or bicycle, rollerblade, whatever) cops aren't generally tied up with traffic stops and other non-criminal events. They are free to stop the little crimes (graffiti, vandalism, burglary) that scare off the 'good' folks allowing seedier elements to take over an area.

    But, cops on foot are expensive. And you need a lot of them to be effective. And since they're going after criminals, they're not making the city any money in the form of tickets and fines.

    There are some jobs best done by real humans on location. Maybe your board meeting with the Beijing office can be done via teleconference, but protecting residents and preventing crime cannot.

    • Re:Police (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dada21 (163177) <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Thursday September 20, 2007 @11:50PM (#20692303) Homepage Journal
      I'm not sure more cops is the answer, either.

      When it comes to "fighting crime," the answer is much deeper and more complex than just trying to figure out how to use public force to prevent what ends up being a private property issue.

      I personally do believe in John Lott's research that more guns means less crime, but I don't think that is the answer -- just handing out guns. When you have responsible gun owners (which can include children, too), and a responsible knowledge of what constitutes private property, you increase a criminal's risk in going forward with a crime. A property owner that is responsible has many reasons to use defensive force to protect their property; a public officer has almost no reason to stop a crime from being committed, and if the property owners aren't aware that they are the first line of defense, there will never be enough cops to stop crime.

      For me, before we even really discuss decriminalization of guns, we have to consider how many crimes may be committed because of non-violent actions that have been criminalized. How many crimes are committed in protecting a black market of goods from one competitor to another? Drug sales are non-violent (two consenting parties bartering), as is prostitution, gambling, and a plethora of other non-violent actions that are called criminal. These create massive black markets where guns are the answer to protecting markets. By removing non-violent actions as crimes, you can greatly decrease these black markets -- bringing down the crimes associated with protecting those markets.

      In addition to reducing black market crimes, decriminalizing said non-violent actions has a long term effect of putting fewer people in prison. As someone who has known more than one person go to prison for a minor offense only to come out with more ideas for committing more crime, I would believe that we'd have fewer violent criminals if we put fewer non-violent criminals in jail. Again, this is a long term effect that you can't judge as fruitful overnight.

      We need more private property freedom -- that's the end goal. When people are free to protect their property, and free to use their property in non-violent bartering, you also have more reason for people to defend their property rather than put hope in the cops. I have no hope in the cops: not the traffic cops, not the anti-gang cops, not the anti-drug cops. I have faith in myself, and my direct family and friends.
    • by Flying pig (925874) on Friday September 21, 2007 @03:38AM (#20693493)
      I grew up in a village in Hertfordshire (north of London) where we had a village policeman who lived in the police house. If he was on patrol you could usually find Mrs. Policeman there, and she would know what to do. He didn't have loads of sophisticated equipment, but he was one of the community leaders (along with the Rector, the head of the local school and the people on the village council) who people knew to go to in an emergency. It wasn't perfect but it worked well.

      Forward to 2000 or thereabouts, and the police are remote figures in flak jackets, almost always inside cars. They are not part of the community, and most teenagers don't identify with them at all. The Government wants to reintroduce the village policeman, under the name of "Community support officers". And who opposes it? The police. The truth is, too much exposure to US TV programs (yes, a study in Manchester showed that some police there were consciously emulating "police" in cop shows) has poisoned their own perception of their role, and many of them are afraid that community police will be too successful.

      Where I live, which is effectively a village on the edge of a small town, we now have these PCSOs. Many evenings I see them out talking to the kids on the street, just talking to them, like our village policemnan used to talk to us in the 1960s. The wheel is coming a bit full circle, and it's about time it did. Cameras are useless without the desire of the community to support its rule enforcers.

      However, one big factor has changed. Our village policeman did not have to deal with large numbers of drunks about from 11p.m. to 4a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. He occasionally had to put a drunk in the cell, but that was about it. Community policing does not work in the UK's disgusting and horrible drunk culture because reasonable people cannot deal with aggressive, knife wielding drunks.(I'm allowed to say this; it's the most shameful thing about this country.) This is the root cause of the cameras. If we fixed the drunk problem, there would be no need for security cameras. This is one case where the US has mostly got it right and we have got it wrong, and I would vote unthinkingly for the first politician who was willing to bring in the laws that apply in Utah, or even Manhattan.

  • by ScrewMaster (602015) on Thursday September 20, 2007 @10:00PM (#20691393)
    10,000 Cameras Ineffective At Deterring Crime

    ... that criminals are incapable of changing their tactics/habits, and that having cameras simply makes it impossible for them to work. That's just not true: criminals will adapt to changing circumstances and will find new ways to achieve their nefarious ends. Cameras merely change the face of crime, they don't eliminate it.
  • I'd like to know if crime rates have gone up due to the cameras being stolen!
  • Hollywood lied! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) on Thursday September 20, 2007 @10:06PM (#20691437)
    I wonder how much of this has to do with the misconception that somebody can use Photoshop to extract a high resolution image from a crappy CCD cam.
  • The study found that police are no more likely to catch offenders in areas with hundreds of cameras than in those with hardly any.

    What types of crimes are they not able to solve with the cameras? Pocket thieves are probably really difficult to spot. But what about vandalism, sex offenders, robberies and other things where you can point to a specific location and the time of the event?

    Or could the cameras simply suck? I remember the London subway bombings and the pictures they released of the men who blew themselves up. Didn't the pictures look like they were taken with a teenager's private web cam? Maybe they should opt for one 1,

    • by Dunbal (464142)
      What types of crimes are they not able to solve with the cameras?

            Theft of those very cameras? I know, low blow, but I couldn't resist.
  • Would you look through 10,000 videos to find the guy that stole a car between 10PM and 6am on friday/saturday? Just because we can collect a stupid amount of data doesn't mean it's entirely useful.
  • I noticed one glaring omission from the statistics listed in the article: what was the rate of unsolved crimes before the cameras were installed? That information would seem to be a requirement for any study concerning the effectiveness of the cameras.

    • by Dunbal (464142)
      I actually went to their website (as horrible as it is), and for some reason I couldn't see any reference to the data (or even to their claims) anywhere on the site.

      I think this is the usual case of "lets make bogus claims that support our political agenda, since no one will bother to get their own copy of the data to prove us wrong". Fairly striking was the fact that they admitted the neighborhood with the highest number of cameras showed the smallest crime rate. Perhaps we could assume that the crime rate
  • Maybe they do not help in deterring crime but I wonder if they help get convictions. If you catch a purse napper it's hard for him to say that he just found it in the garbage if they have him on video forcefully taking it from her.
  • There's very little I hate more than fucking hit-and-run drunk drivers that I've seen ended many good people's life with their irresponsibility. They are no worse than murderers, IMO. Here in Singapore, we have quite a few hit-and-run incidents that were solved thanks to such cameras on our expressways. Loss of privacy? A very small price to pay for catching and deterring drunk drivers.

    Fucking drunk drivers.
    • Here in Singapore, we have quite a few hit-and-run incidents that were solved thanks to such cameras on our expressways.

      And even if the drunks don't hit anybody, they'll forget to stop chewing their gum while driving past cameras on the expressway.
  • No. Continue to destroy civil liberties.
  • This article is an incredibly juicy example of lying with facts...it is like shooting fish in a barrel, which has been drained of water :-)

    I just wish I had more time to dig into it and address it in totality...

    Ok, here are a few issues:

    Confusing prevention and solution
    The argument for CCTV is that it helps prevent and solve crimes, but the only statistics presented here concern the solution of crime. We don't have any comment on the crime rates (and the mix of crimes committed) prior to cameras or in compa
  • Waste of money (Score:2, Interesting)

    by NetNed (955141)
    In the situations that these cameras are used it is a waste of money. They do not deter criminals, they just make the public feel watched and untrusted. To think other wise is to give yourself a false sense of security.

    I have a buddy that owns a local restaurant with 16 cameras installed in and outside the building. They are good to dispel employees steeling or goofing off at the wrong times but if you don't know the person before hand they are useless.

    Example: my buddy rides his bicycle to work 2 or 3
  • by Myrcutio (1006333) on Thursday September 20, 2007 @11:46PM (#20692279)
    There are two ways to use CCTV cameras, one is simply having them there as a deterent to try and scare would be offenders, the other is to catch someone in the act and identify them. Now, the second strategy is complicated by the fact that in a public place almost all your footage is going to be out of focus. A camera has to be set to a specific focal length which can cover a specific distance from the camera and anything closer. If you set the length too far away, you get a horribly small field of view. So, given that you might have 3-4 cameras covering a block thats maybe 10,000 square feet, and perhaps 100 square feet of that is actually clear on camera, the odds of catching a crime clearly enough to identify an offender would be minimal. Therefore if their strategy is simply as a deterent, then we have one conclusion: the criminals in this area don't care if they're being watched, and you just wasted an obscene amount of money.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by aj50 (789101)
      CCTV footage is also used to help determine the nature and seriousness of a crime once a criminal has been caught. Even if the footage is not clear enough to positively identify someone, it's still useful for seeing what actually happened (e.g. was the attacker being threatened).
  • by sudnshok (136477) * on Friday September 21, 2007 @12:08AM (#20692423)
    The US currently spends over $50B per year on the war on drugs. They have been "fighting" this war for over 30 years and have not even made a dent. So, every year, they spend more. If this isn't the clearest example of politicians ignoring facts then I don't know what is.
  • by TaleSpinner (96034) on Friday September 21, 2007 @12:14AM (#20692453)
    > Could this be an effective argument against the
    > proliferation of cameras or will politicians simply
    > ignore the facts and press ahead?

    It has been shown by traffic engineers that American
    speed limits are set too low. The rule they use is
    the 85% rule - the average speed of 85% of the traffic
    is the best speed. By definition, in fact, as it there-
    fore guarantees that cops only have to deal with the 15%
    of the population who will not drive reasonably and
    prudently. This rule-of-thumb has been shown useful
    again and again. Yet the US persists in restricting
    speeds to 55 or 65 miles an hour. According to many
    traffic engineer studies, this results in 75%(+/- a
    small number, I don't recall) offenders, far more than
    police can handle. Have the speed limits been raised
    to recommended levels? They have not. 75% offender
    rates are great for bringing in the fines. And
    those tickets also mean insurance companies can raise
    your rates, even though they know perfectly well a moving
    violation has no effect on your probability of a
    claim. So, why the obstinacy? Could it be because every
    municipality in the country is trying to get photocops
    installed everywhere? Do they reduce accidents? No.
    But they are great for revenue - as long as you get rid
    of that "punishing the transgresser" nonsense and just
    assume the registered owner of the violating car is guilty.
    Guilty until proven innocent is so much more efficient.
    Especially when there is no amount of proof that will
    satisfy a traffic court judge that anyone is innocent.

    And then we have red-light cameras. Again, traffic
    engineers have pointed out - many times - that
    extending the yellow light to 4 seconds and making it
    consistent for all traffic lights does, indeed,
    make red-light intersections safer. So do we do that?
    We do not. Rather, we put up a red light camera, and
    then we shorten the yellows to push up the take.
    And does this make intersections safer? No, in fact the
    accident rate doubles, and in some instances triples,
    almost all of them, predictably, rear-end collisions.
    And, I hardly dare to point out, this, again, requires
    eliminating "innocent until proven guilty" and making
    the registered owner responsible.

    Oh, sure, the registered owner can finger the real culprit
    - who is most often their spouse, but hey, it's a tort law,
    so it's okay to stress and strain a marriage for the sake
    of that fine.

    So they all ride the gravy train, and we all pay. We pay
    in money for fines and insurance rate increases, we pay in
    time, as if commute distances aren't already ridiculous.
    We pay in aggravation, which either damages relations with
    other people or which will corrode your arteries faster than
    any amount of Ben and Jerry's best. And, finally, we pay
    with our lives because all of this is very profitable
    for the gov't, but it causes accidents, lots of them, and
    people get badly hurt or killed in such accidents -
    entirely preventable accidents
    - every day. Think of that
    when you pass one of those crosses set up by the side of the
    road, and remember that money was more important to the gov't
    than the life of that person, someone's son, daughter, spouse,
    sibling, friend. The $$$ are more important.

    So will we wind up in George Orwell's nightmare here? With
    the current mania for gov't spying on Americans I'd say it's
    all but guaranteed. But if there is a way to use the system
    to catch jaywalkers, parking violations, right-of-way rules,
    inattentive wandering between lanes while sipping one's latte,
    well, you can bet we'll see those cameras - everywhere.

    Freedom. Liberty. Rights. None of these can stand up to
    paranoia or the almighty dollar.
  • by vorlich (972710) on Friday September 21, 2007 @02:35AM (#20693175) Homepage Journal
    Where I come from in Scotland we have large numbers of cameras, particularly in the city centre where the intention is to reduce crime that is a by-product of drinking. The cameras are part of crowd control and very little else. I worked in a bar in the town centre and I can promise you nobody really took much notice of the cameras. Violence and breaches of the peace were reduced but people continued to consume drugs, misbehave and have sex in doorways. I remember once a guy, on his stag night was stripped butt naked, tied to a lamppost and whipped by his mates and although all of the cameras rotated to watch it, the police didn't arrive until it was all over and they were back in the pub (dressing him in a nappy, I might add for surrealistic effect).

    I lived in what was considered the roughest area of the city and at a community council meeting, where some residents were a) demanding camera surveillance and b) drawing comparisons between how they were treated and the how more affluent areas of the city were treated, I suggested that we not only have the cameras but they could pipe it in to all our TV's and we then would could all see who the criminals were. It was roundly applauded, but we never did get the cameras.

    Where I live now in South Germany, there are very few cameras apart from traffic control, you can drink for almost 24 hours a day and I have never witnessed street violence on par with my native country. You can drive your car at almost any speed you want on the Autobhan and Germany has the lowest level of Road Traffic Accidents per kilometre in the world - if you are like me tootling along in your truck at a snail's pace of 110 kph and stream of cars pass you with after-burners blazing at + 200 kph, this sounds rather surprising but it is true. If you do speed in the restricted areas and are caught on camera, you can request the photo. The photo is always a full frontal of you in the car with your face clearly visible. Some kids wave and legend has it, they get fined extra for lack of respect. My partner was hilariously caught speeding in a 15kph (!) zone, doing 20 and her employers presented her with the snap.

    When I lived in Miami, I couldn't help but be impressed by how quiet the bars were and how friendly the Miami people were - and it's a party town, the bars are pretty wild. Both South Germany and Florida are dynamic economies and trading hubs. Scotland is neither or more accurately, there is less money in the economy. Florida has concealed gun laws and even the poorest South German has a remarkably high standard of living. In Switzerland almost everyone has a gun and for the purposes of civil defence were compelled to have one, and to generalise, they are fairly well off, have almost no crime and no cameras. Now I won't for a moment claim that my observation are anything other than anecdotal, but I also cannot help noticing the paucity of valid evidence either way. So I might dare to suggest that crime fighting cameras have more to do with poor economic performance - which is subject to the market and difficult to affect - and the symbolic effect they have on the electorate - and for that reason we might be looking in the wrong place for the evidence that either supports or demolishes the argument.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by HerbieStone (64244)
      In Switzerland almost everyone has a gun and for the purposes of civil defence were compelled to have one, and to generalise, they are fairly well off, have almost no crime and no cameras.

      I'm Swiss. You almost got it right. Let me clarify.

      Switzerlands army is mainly composed of a militia force, which means that every able and healthy man has to serve part-time the military. It is true that everyone in the military brings his arm home. But the ammunition they bring is sealed. The seal would be opened in c

  • I love statistics (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Tim C (15259) on Friday September 21, 2007 @07:45AM (#20694509)
    You can use them to "prove" anything.

    Other people have already talked about volume vs percentage, so I'll ask a different question: might it not be that those areas with lots of cameras but no better crime solving rate, are in fact only keeping up with the areas with fewer cameras *because* they have cameras? That is, if you took away the cameras, would their crime solving rate drop even lower?

    Note that I'm no fan of a surveillance society, but I am even more against bogus logic and misuse of statistics. We're supposed to be better than that.
  • by Spectre (1685) on Friday September 21, 2007 @09:59AM (#20695677)
    A surveillance society is not about helping to catch criminals. It is all about making the populace terrified to do anything that might offend the powers-in-charge.

    Typically they are "sold" to the public under the guise of fighting crime, as nobody wants to stand in the way of a murderer being subjected to justice of the people.

    The real reason though is that government's largest risk of being put out of power is not criminals or foreign enemies, but their own people. By making the people feel their every move is cataloged and noted by the government, they are (by and large) made afraid to do anything their government may see as problematic, reducing government's risk of the people demonstrating, peacefully or not.

    The cameras were never about fighting crime, they are there both as a panacea for the people and more importantly, a means of control.

    I may sound like a tin-foil hat wearing libertarian here ... but, dang it, the tin-foil hat wearing libertarians have it right.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Reziac (43301) *
      And as others have pointed out (re bad laws, but the principle is the same) ... don't think of any such tech as it will used by the GOOD guys. Think of them as it will be used by the BAD guys. Or even by the political party that merely opposes YOUR party of choice. If the thought makes you squirm, then it's a Bad Idea.

  • by Phat_Tony (661117) on Friday September 21, 2007 @01:27PM (#20698903)
    I'm no fan of the camera's; but they're only one aspect of Britain's Orwellian Law Enforcement plan. I'm mainly opposed to cameras because I hate the idea of a government surveillance society, not because I believe they're ineffective. Perhaps they are effective, and their deterrent effect is being offset by other crime-increasing policies? [reason.com]

    I think there are important lessons to learn in understanding why London's crime rate has been soaring while New York's has been plummeting, but I don't think we're even close to fully understanding the causes of these trends or their relevant contributions. It's a ripe field for analysis.

    Separately, the information provided in that summary makes the research appear extremely unscientific. This article makes no mention of the changes in clear-up rates over time with the installation of cameras, only comparisons across precincts. But surely there were differences in clear-up rates across precincts before the cameras. At any rate, this article only addresses the cameras in terms of solving crimes, which may be entirely irrelevant to their value if their primary benefit is deterrence.

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