Micro Places – Gerell (2016)

Study Reference:

Gerell, M. (2016). Hot Spot Policing With Actively Monitored CCTV Cameras: Does it Reduce Assaults in Public Places? International Criminal Justice Review26(2), 187–201.

Location in the Matrix; Methodological Rigor; Outcome:

Micro places; General; Proactive; Moderately rigorous; No evidence of an effect

What police practice or strategy was examined?

The study assessed the implementation of CCTV to assist police in preventing crime at a cluster of violent hot spots in the nightlife district of a mid-sized Swedish town. At least four police officers constantly patrolled the vicinity during weekend nights when violent crimes were at the highest rates. An additional officer monitored real-time CCTV footage of the vicinity and informed the officers on the ground of situations that could escalate into crime to de-escalate situations before they became violent.

How was the intervention evaluated?

The number of public environment assaults occurring between midnight and 6 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays (when the CCTV cameras were in operation) were analyzed. The authors calculated the change in assaults within the treatment area between the year before the implementation of CCTV and one year following the initiation of the intervention, which began on August 17, 2012. This change was compared to changes in Saturday and Sunday night assaults during the same period in another hot spot sharing similar characteristics of nightlife and violent crime but with no CCTV cameras. The authors also examined changes in the treatment area during hours when CCTV cameras were not operating (weekday nights, Monday-Friday).

What were the key findings?

The study found no evidence that using CCTV cameras reduced violent crime. The treatment area experienced a decline in public environment assaults during hours when the program was operating compared to hours when it was not operating. However, this difference was not statistically significant. Further, the control area without cameras experienced a greater reduction in weekend nighttime assaults than the treatment area, though this difference was not statistically significant.

What were the implications for law enforcement?

In a Swedish context (where violent crime is relatively low), allocating officers to CCTV monitoring is not effective in reducing violent crime. The authors note a decline in violent crime was observed in the year before CCTV activation, which might have been attributable to the implementation of a hot spots policing program also taking place during this time. This suggests that officer resources, especially when scarce, are better spent on other tactics, such as hot spots policing. The study did not document whether or how often the CCTV cameras were used to disrupt problem activity.

Where can I find more information about this intervention, similar types of intervention, or related studies?