Closed-Circuit TV cameras (CCTV) are being installed in record numbers by cities, businesses, and individuals. These cameras can make us feel more safe, but do they really deter criminals?
We have all seen the news reports about the 2005 London Terrorist bombings of the subways. Without the camera systems, where officials were able to track the movements of the perpetrators, it is very likely that it would have taken much longer to solve those crimes.
It has been demonstrated many times that camera recording can be used to solve crimes. The Chicago Police Department estimates that the web of cameras installed in their city has been an important tool, resulting in more than 1,200 arrests since 2006. The Dallas Police Department has reported more than 1,700 arrests in a similar period from their camera system.
Video Analytics is the use of computers to monitor security cameras. If we believed Hollywood, camera systems with this kind of artificial intelligence can have almost mystical power. The truth is that for most applications, analytics can be of some value, especially in less busy environments. Video Analytic systems are currently being installed in Chicago by IBM. "That's really going to just throw our camera network into hyperdrive," said Kevin Smith, a spokesman with the Chicago's Office of Emergency Management and Communications (OEMC). "Ultimately I think what this software might be able to do is simply recognize suspicious behavior and alert our operations people and, at times, our crime detections specialists as to what it sees."
Security cameras can be a deterrent to crime. In a study of convenience stores, CCTV showed impressive results. A sample of 81 stores were studied for 1 year before and 1 year after the installation of CCTV camera security systems. The rate of robbery decreased by 53 percent after the cameras were installed.
The New York City Housing Authority estimates that the CCTV systems have reduced crime by 36% in their public housing. Baltimore (17%), Dallas (11%) and Philadelphia (37%) also report improvement in the rate of crime because of their downtown camera monitoring systems.
Night vision technology, orignally developed for military uses, is now regularly employed for use where ambient light levels are sometimes low. These cameras can deter criminal activity at night. During the day, the cameras operate conventionally, but when light levels drop below a threshold, the camera switches modes.
Many criminals, when faced with a security camera system, will choose easier prey.