How Should Police Be Using CCTV?
Welsh and Farrington (2010) note that the exact ways to maximize the effectiveness of CCTV are unknown, but they point to the importance of a high degree of camera coverage. Additionally, the successful interventions in parking lots combined CCTV with other interventions such as better lighting and increased security personnel.
They also note that the crime control benefits in city centers, where CCTV is frequently used in the U.S., have not been as great. They argue that “CCTV in city and town centers may be more effective if they are targeted on property crimes, targeted at specific places such as high-crime areas (as part of an effort to increase camera coverage), and combined with other surveillance measures” (Welsh & Farrington, 2010: 28). They also recommend that departments think about the use of mobile CCTV units that could be redeployed to high crime areas identified by crime analysts.
La Vigne and colleagues (2011: 1) provide 10 lessons for creating a public surveillance system. They are:
1. Assess your needs and budget before investing
2. Plan ahead for maintenance, infrastructure, and other ongoing costs
3. Plan camera locations to maximize the view-shed
4. Consider integration with other technology (e.g. gunshot detection systems, crime mapping software)
5. Balance privacy protection with system utility
6. Weigh the costs and benefits to using active monitoring
7. Integrate camera systems with existing practices and procedures
8. Set and manage realistic expectations for video footage quality
9. Use surveillance systems to complement, not replace, routine policing, investigations, and legal proceedings
10. Incorporate video evidence with witness testimony in court
A recent randomized controlled trial in Newark offers promising evidence for efforts to combine monitoring of CCTV cameras with directed patrols in an effort to ensure cameras are a proactive policing tool. Piza et al. (2015) examined the impact of a program where 19 treatment cameras were monitored by a special operator who could directly communicate with two patrol cars dedicated to responding to incidents observed by the operator. Calls for service analyses suggested overall reductions in violence and social disorder as a result of the intervention with no observed impact on narcotics offenses.