Free Britain

CCTV doesn’t keep us safe, yet the cameras are everywhere

Source: The Guardian

Bruce Schneier


Pervasive security cameras don’t substantially reduce crime. There are exceptions, of course, and that’s what gets the press. Most famously, CCTV cameras helped catch James Bulger’s murderers in 1993. And earlier this year, they helped convict Steve Wright of murdering five women in the Ipswich area. But these are the well-publicised exceptions. Overall, CCTV cameras aren’t very effective.

This fact has been demonstrated again and again: by a comprehensive study for the Home Office in 2005, by several studies in the US, and again with new data announced last month by New Scotland Yard. They actually solve very few crimes, and their deterrent effect is minimal.

Conventional wisdom predicts the opposite. But if that were true, then camera-happy London, with something like 500,000, would be the safest city on the planet. It isn’t, of course, because of technological limitations of cameras, organisational limitations of police and the adaptive abilities of criminals.

To some, it’s comforting to imagine vigilant police monitoring every camera, but the truth is very different. Most CCTV footage is never looked at until well after a crime is committed. When it is examined, it’s very common for the viewers not to identify suspects. Lighting is bad and images are grainy, and criminals tend not to stare helpfully at the lens. Cameras break far too often. The best camera systems can still be thwarted by sunglasses or hats. Even when they afford quick identification — think of the 2005 London transport bombers and the 9/11 terrorists — police are often able to identify suspects without the cameras. Cameras afford a false sense of security, encouraging laziness when we need police to be vigilant.

(Read more)

Further reading:

The Truth About CCTV
Almost all CCTV systems are illegal, says expert


2 Comments so far
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Please don’t copy our articles like this. It’s rude, uncreative, and illegal – you can be sued for copyright infringement.

Comment on the articles; use short extracts; link to us. All are welcome. Copying the whole thing – is likely to get you a lawyer’s letter.

Please don’t steal our content like this: it means we don’t get more readers, so we don’t get adverts, so can’t pay for the articles like the one you liked enough to steal.

Please reduce the amount you’re using here to levels that could be considered “fair dealing” – generally, about one-third of an article is a good rule-of-thumb for a maximum.

A free Britain still has the rule of law, after all.

Charles Arthur, editor, Technology Guardian

Comment by Charles

Thanks for making those modifications.

Charles Arthur, editor, Technology Guardian

Comment by Charles

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