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Effects of CCTV as a Surveillance Strategy



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    Surveillance is proving to be a very effective technique to ensure the feeling of safety and security among the people of a state. Traditionally surveillance was done manually using human patrolling by police and law maintaining bodies in the city. Then with the introduction of CCTVs we started using video surveillance. This essay will begin by briefly outlining what is meant by surveillance further explaining varying ways in which CCTV is used in the UK and global as a surveillance strategy.

    Surveillance loosely meaning to monitor people from a distance without actually coming into contact with the subject, one such method is CCTV (Closed Circuit Television) has become a familiar tool in aiding to improve security nowadays with cameras installed virtually everywhere. The word surveillance owes its origin to the French word for “watching over” (Wikipedia, 2012) in sociology terms surveillance can be defined as, ‘Monitoring the activities of others in order to ensure compliant behaviour. Social Science Dictionary) such examples include electronic equipment (such as CCTV cameras), consumer transactions, personal information supplied to varying government employees i. e. Doctors. All this information is very useful to governments and law enforcement agencies in helping to maintain social control. The social theory of surveillance can be traced back to the utilitarian work of Jeremy Bentham (1791) and his vision of rational social control. He invented the concept ‘Panoptican’ a prison design that allowed for uninterrupted inspection, observation and surveillance of prisoners (Drake, Munice & Westmarland, 2010, pg 11).

    The process of control was gained by the impression that the unseen eye was watching, and with the prisoners unaware of when the threat of potential surveillance resulted in them ‘assure the automatic functioning of self-control and self-discipline on the part of the prisoners (Drake, Munice & Westmarland, 2010, pg 12). Similarly, the CCTV camera may produce a self-discipline through fear of surveillance, whether real or imagined. (Armitage, 2002). With more and more information readily available to the Government this information can be powerful.

    According to Simon Davies ‘It is in the nature of government to secure power for itself, and often it is power for the sake of power. And power, once it is centralised, is automatically abused’. (Bowden, 2001) CCTV has typically been introduced to assist in the fight against crime, mainly to deter and detect crime, disorder and anti-social behaviour, but also to help reduce ‘fear of crime’ (Webster, 2009). With Close Circuit Television (CCTV ) Cameras being the main form of surveillance in modern day Britain, and with an estimated 1. 5 million cameras it is almost impossible to avoid being caught on camera at some point. Richard Thomas, former information commissioner warned in 2004 that the UK might ‘sleep-walk into a surveillance society’ and according to Christopher McDermott (2) ‘you won’t be able to hide from the system by closing your door or closing your curtains or hiding behind a wall’. They will become, as Dr Stephen Graham of the University of Newcastle upon Tyne has suggested, the “fifth utility”, after telephones, water, gas and electricity (Bowden, 2001).

    According to (Coleman 2005, Mooney & Talbot, 2010) ‘CCTV cameras are widely used in a variety of circumstances evidence suggests that CCTV is a factor in managing particular spaces; for example consumption zones and shopping malls (pg 150) ‘The hidden locations of the control rooms make it impossible for the public to see from where they are observed’ (Koskela, 2002) here certain activities, behaviours and demeanours can be monitored and filtered out – such as signs of non-consumption in the form of homelessness or congregating youths (Coleman 2005, Mooney & Talbot, 2010, Pg 150) in turn allowing security staff to promptly attend the scene and deal accordingly. Recorded surveillance within shopping centres can prove invaluable according to (Coleman 2005, Mooney & Talbot 2010) in certain incidents. To illustrate this further, most famously in 1993 CCTV cameras helped catch toddler James Bulger’s murderers. CCTV captured images of the toddler being led away by two young boys, later identified as ten year olds Thompson and Venables.

    CCTV was “incredibly helpful” to police investigating the Bulger case, it showed the police they were looking for two kids rather than a paedophile,” said Professor Laycock (800) and although the cameras did little in preventing this appalling crime it did prove useful in identifying the perpetrators. With rising crime rates, the general belief that CCTV is an effective means in reducing crime and providing public reassurance to reduce the overall fear of crime is questionable. Home Office minister Lord Falconer insists that CCTV cameras have a “significant” impact on crime levels where they were properly used and maintained. The signs were that the cameras increased safety, and that people felt safer, he said, adding: “In terms of providing people both with security and a sense of security, this is a good investment. ” (Mail Online, 2012) However, this is strongly debated, with studies showing it to fall somewhat short of expectations.

    Although CCTV can prove to be an effective tool in aiding police in their enquiries, it is not without failure, Certain limitations on CCTV coverage and angles can lead to manipulation of the system by criminals intent on avoiding the gaze of the camera by either disguising themselves so as to avoid recognition or simply carrying out their criminal act out of the view of the camera. On the contrary, it is argued that CCTV reduces crime rates as people are afraid of visiting CCTV covered areas as they believe them to be too dangerous (Phillips 1999). Webster (1996) largely attributes a rising ‘fear of crime’ to the widespread installation of CCTV across Britain. (Scottish Government, 2009) The prospect of improved feelings of public safety following the installation of CCTV in a target area has certainly been the topic of much research. Spriggs, Argomaniz, Gill and Bryan (2005) conducted a series of pre-intervention public attitude surveys across towns/city centres about to install CCTV.

    One survey carried out in Northern Estate Study (Scottish Government, 2009). ‘The system was ineffective at reducing levels of fear of crime amongst residents of the estate. Even though feelings of safety increased, the respondents of the survey were less positive towards the use of CCTV on the estate, suggesting that other factors played a part in reducing fear of crime, for example reported victimisation levels. (Gill, 2005). Whereby the survey in South City showed there to be a reduction in the fear of crime ‘Fear of crime reduced in the target area after the installation of CCTV. However, the presence of cameras did not reassure the public and the project failed to publicise the successes of the scheme.

    Other factors may have played a part in reducing fear of crime, including a specialised team that tackled aggressive begging in the city centre, aided by CCTV evidence’ (Gill, 2005). However, an overwhelming 94% of respondents indicated they would be happy to see cameras installed in the town centre, and when asked the reason for supporting the prospect of CCTV, the most frequent response given across all four samples included in the study was ‘ making the respondent feel safer’. (Scottish Government, 2009). It was James Ditton of the Scottish Centre for Criminology who produced the most devastating evidence against the effectiveness of CCTV.

    His study in Glasgow showed that, after cameras were installed, crime rates went up slightly and detection rates down. The police were so shocked by the finding that the report’s publication was delayed for three years while they had it independently assessed. Ditton’s findings were confirmed. Admittedly, his study in the much smaller Scottish town of Airdrie showed the reverse effect. Nevertheless, Ditton now seriously doubts that CCTV has any effect: ‘I don’t see that pointing cameras down a few streets should have any effect on crime rates. ‘ (Bowden, 2001). Like many other crime prevention methods, the effect of CCTV has also been found to fade over time.

    This is supported in a study carried out by Lepon & Popkin (2007) conducted in London and Harvard, at first the idea of installation of CCTV was met very favourably in one neighbourhood it showed how crime rates went down while the camera systems were being installed, unfortunately however, after a few months once the novelty and the talk of these cameras subsided the crime rates went back up. If the effect of CCTV is going to be lasting it is important to continue to demonstrate to offenders that the risk of being apprehended with CCTV is high (Nysether, 2011). To the criminal investigator, CCTV surveillance or recorded surveillance can be invaluable in helping to solve crimes. One of the most infamous cases is that of Richard Whelan, who was stabbed to death on a bus in 2005 as he attempted to defend his girlfriend. The horrific 33-second attack was all caught on camera.

    Anthony Joseph, a paranoid schizophrenic, baited the victim by throwing chips at his girlfriend and the killer grinned at a CCTV camera as he left the bus (Edwards, 2009) However, the process of identification using CCTV remains open to error and misidentification, this was apparent in the case of R versus Mills (2009) where the accused was sentenced to nine years in prison, later freed on DNA evidence, for a bank robbery on the strength of four witness accounts two of which were police officers who made positive statements that Mills ‘was the robber on the basis of looking at CCTV stills,” “This was a prosecution that stood or fell by eyewitness identification alone,” said Lord Gill. (Anon, BBC, 2009). CCTV may not be able to ultimately reduce crime or even deter criminals; but used as an effective tool in the fight against crime by targeting specific offences, it can be seen that there is no doubt it is a powerful and innovative weapon in iding the police in their fight against crime and it can be used effectively in monitoring town centres and as an support in controlling crime. With ever increasing use of surveillance a majority of people are willing to forego their basic rights in order for the feelings of safety and security.

    With ever increasing use of surveillance prompting concerns about implications for human rights, it could be argued that CCTV is used in addition to policing and although the police can be considered a form of surveillance most people accept this and do not consider it as a power that infringes on their civil liberties and is therefore. In many instances new cameras are put up without any consent from the public or even with public discussion. Provided the police or other local law enforcement have the support of the government they are free to monitor public places, with little regard for the privacy of the citizens’ (Goold 2002). ‘CCTV operators must inevitably be selective with regards to what and whom they observe’ (Postnote, 2002). Civil libertarians argue that closed circuit television invades the privacy rights of individuals and with all technology is the possibility of abuse one such example is the ‘ CCTV operator in Wales who kept his camera focused on a telephone box. Every time a girl he fancied walked by, he called the number of the box. If she answered it, she found herself the victim of an obscene caller (Bowden, 2001).

    CCTV surveillance is open to misuse it can be argued that it violates individuals privacy and anonymity by exposing ‘chosen’ individuals to a possible prolonged observation from unseen observers. ‘Under the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, images can be disclosed to third parties for crime prevention and detention. There are no nationally agreed protocols for sharing such information’ (Postnote, 2002). One example of misuse was in the case of Geoff Peck, a man from Essex was ‘captured on CCTV just after he tried to kill himself this footage and still images appeared in the media and was also broadcast on television, The European Court of Human Rights ruled that Geoff Peck’s right to privacy had been breached, and awarded him ?20,000.

    The images of the incident in 1995 appeared in the newspapers and on television to illustrate the benefits of security cameras in tackling crime. Peck’s right to respect for his private life. The court ruled that disclosing the images represented a “serious interference” (Anon, BBC, 2003). With no current legislation on CCTV operators, ‘One idea, to ensure individuals privacy and anonymity is being looked after by the camera operator, is that an independent agency should supervise the use of the CCTV equipment and the camera operators behaviour. This could be done through inspections of the CCTV control room and through detail reports on the camera operators practices and the use of information collected through CCTV (Goold 2002 cited in Nysether, 2011).

    In March this year, Sam Goodman, 18, walked out of his politics lesson to protest against four CCTV cameras that had been installed overnight in the classroom. He was joined by all but one of his classmates. Goodman says his school, an Essex comprehensive, told the class that the cameras had not been switched on yet, and that when they were, they’d be used for teacher training purposes only (qte 662) his main objection, he said was the “four tinted domes hanging from the classroom ceiling and the huge monitor staring right at us” (Shepherd, 2009) their presence he believed inhibiting his & other students the freedom of self-expression. Richard Thomas, the Information Commissioner, has spoken out against Britain becoming ‘the most watched country in the world’. Britain has spent hundreds of millions of pounds and people have largely accepted the downside of CCTV in terms of intrusion into our privacy, as cameras increasingly creep from the streets into places like pubs and cinemas, and even our homes. (Hickley, 2009) most people have accepted them as part of everyday living. Typically, most studies on effectiveness of CCTV and its ability in reducing crime is one that is regularly carried out. The most tried and tested method of looking at CCTV and crime reducing effectiveness is to look at current crime statistics for an area then compare those statistics post CCTV installation. While we continue to spend more on public CCTV systems, the debate on CCTV effectiveness has reached a polarizing and inconclusive standoff. On the one side, you have a number of studies that continually indicate that CCTV systems are ineffective.

    On the other, you have numerous towns installing new CCTV projects. Simon Davies, of Privacy International, a pressure group, said the clamour for more and more CCTV cameras was based on the mistaken belief that they cut crime (Hickley, 2009). The subject of surveillance raises some of the most important political questions of our time. Surveillance takes information gathered about the populous and uses it to govern and bring control of their activities. Global terrorism of the last decade has shaped the usage and role of this surveillance, and this is used as a primary reason to increase its usage. However, once installed, terrorism is only one of the many activities that can be tracked.

    Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks in America, ‘The steep increase in surveillance infrastructure after 9/11 has been “intensive” and has “proceeded with little public debate or protest (Derzko, 2005) the USA PATRIOT Act was quickly developed as a means by which the government could hope to put an end to terrorism, granting new special powers and almost unlimited powers to domestic and international law enforcement and intelligent agencies. The PATRIOT act removes previous checks and balances that could be used by the courts to ensure that powers issued to the Government weren’t abused. Therefore, by this change to law the basic rights and freedoms for the American populated was and still is threatened. This has put America under surveillance in the name of global terrorism, and has been done without a good and justified cause or with sufficient monitoring to ensure the powers aren’t abused. ‘Muslims, Arabs, and South Asians are in constant fear of delays or denial of their right to travel because of the use of “no fly” lists and profiling by customs agents’. Anon, 2004 pg 16). Airports especially saw an increase in surveillance to try and identify persons who would be deemed possible to pose a potential risk. The use of CCTV with facial recognition, new ‘smart’ ID systems and upgraded communications intercepting techniques are among the few new measures that are evident at many if not all of the main Western airports. Airport security has been subjecting people to special screening — sometimes randomly and sometimes based on profile criteria as analyzed by computer. For example, people who buy one-way tickets or pay with cash are more likely to be flagged for this extra screening (Schneier, 2004).

    However, in the aftermath of 9/11, it was important that law enforcement authorities at all levels of government take steps to respond to the threat of terrorism. However, some actions have adversely affected the civil rights of immigrants and non-immigrants, particularly members of Muslim, Arab, and South Asian communities (Anon, 2004 pg 8). The London July bombings brought up serious issues about ‘’home grown’ terrorist acts and a percentage of public opinion shifted to suspicion towards UK Muslims, Asians, asylum seekers and political refugees. The Institute of Race Relations website shows a sharp increase in hate crimes against British Muslims during the month after July 7, 2005 London Bombings.

    The shift towards pre-emptive and anticipatory profiling, surveillance, and incarceration, only furthers the risks that whole communities might be criminalized because of their risks of possible association with “terrorists” defined, in advance, based on ethnic or ‘racial’ categorisation (Graham, 2007) for example after 9/11 many Sikh men with turbans were victims of hate crimes and severely beaten because it was believed that these men resembled Osama bin Laden (Umbreit, 2003 cited in Priya). According to Haggerty, much of the new surveillance often involves forms of racial profiling, “and this is, of course, offensive to those people subjected to the heightened scrutiny (Smith, 2005). Although profiling of Arabs and Muslims was a concern before 9/11, its scope and impact expanded dramatically after the terrorist attacks (Anon, 2004 pg 11).

    An article in The Guardian “The turban effect” shows just how these growths have come about. Writer, Birdwell 2008 notes that, ‘before we sharpen our knives and turn on the media, it is quite possible that the “turban effect” does not reveal a deep seated (and recently received) prejudice, but rather our instinctual disposition towards inductive reasoning that is, making predictions about the future on the basis of past experience. ‘ Birdwell 2008 goes on to quite justly points out that, ‘the fact remains that the attacks of 9/11, 7/7 and Madrid were committed by individuals in the name of Islam (albeit a perverted interpretation). ‘ Birdwell 2008.

    Leading to the belief that racial discrimination exists more so now post 9/11 then previously. Birdwell goes further to say ‘The only problem, of course, is that none of these men were wearing turbans during their respective attacks, or in their portrayal in the media. Not only that, even though inductive reasoning forms the basis of our everyday reasoning, it is often fallacious, and in the current context it could prove particularly pernicious, if it leads to such simple and unthinking connections. ‘ (Birdwell 2008). There are many reasons to question increased surveillance, for one, Haggerty believes, it is difficult to reverse the expansion of surveillance infrastructure once is has begun.

    Even if trust is given to the organisations entrusted to perform monitoring operations, we have seen in the past how information gathered for a specific purpose can then be used for other, seemingly unrelated and arguably questionable purposes by the original and third-party groups. Increased surveillance can also reduce our sense of privacy, which is “the cornerstone of a liberal democracy,” he added. “Without a sense of privacy, we tend to self-censor and don’t say what we really think–it’s hard to quantify, but it’s a huge loss. ” Haggerty doesn’t believe surveillance measures are without merit, but he does believe that “knowledge matters”. “The more we know about surveillance and its uses, the more we can be aware of how and why it can be used to manipulate us, and the more in control we can be of our lives and the choices we make. ” (Derzko, 2006).

    In post-9/11 security and antiterrorism concerns, the objects of profiling are primarily Muslims, Arabs, and South Asians—rather than African Americans, Latinos, or other groups—but the tactics are the same. They are both unconstitutional and ineffective; alienating the very communities whose assistance is most needed for national security. Moreover, in the current post-9/11 climate, African Americans and Latinos—communities traditionally hit hard by profiling—continue to suffer from intensified practices of racial profiling by law enforcement officials (Anon, 2004 pg 6). Social sorting increasingly defines surveillance society, this in turn can lead to other concerns such as prejudice and discrimination against certain religions.

    Since 9/11 such sorting might possibly have contributed to safety in the air (we shall never know) but it has certainly led to crude profiling of groups, especially Muslims, that has produced inconvenience, hardship and even torture (Ball, Lyon, Murakami-Wood, Norris, Raab, 2006). Conclusion Whilst there is no doubt behind the theory that CCTV is very good for surveillance purposes and is effective in providing ‘a sense of security’,the debate around the issues of its use in crime reduction is still contested. However, it is here to stay, and it is important that it shouldn’t be used in such a way that it offends the basic fundamental rights of an individual.

    We need to keep a healthy balance between the use of technology and traditional methods. More laws to control the use and safeguards against abuse need to be formulated, and modification should to be done to the existing ones to fix the various loopholes they have. Also there should be a limit and purpose of how and who uses the technology, it is a powerful tool and should be treated as such.


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