Surveillance Cameras Popular But Not Necessarily Effective

June 27, 2008 08:01 AM
by Cara McDonough
Few statistics back up the helpfulness of surveillance cameras, yet U.S. cities are installing the devices by the thousands.

30-Second Summary

Seattle officials this month approved $400,000 for installing surveillance cameras in city parks, and the police chief in Austin has called for round-the-clock camera surveillance throughout the city by year’s end.

But nearly seven years after the attacks of September 11, 2001, inspired a marked increase in the security networks, “no systematic national research has been undertaken to assess their effectiveness,” reports MSNBC.

Several regional studies have yielded discouraging results, such as a University of California Berkeley report that showed San Francisco’s 68 surveillance cameras have apparently not deterred criminals from committing assaults, sex offenses or robberies.

Besides the data, or lack thereof, the cameras face another challenge: privacy activists.

“To the extent that these cameras are there to protect the public safety, it’s fine, but once they cross that threshold of getting into areas where people have a reasonable expectation of privacy, they can expect to be challenged,” said Redditt Hudson, who works for the American Civil Liberties Union.

Naysayers may have a hard time convincing those in favor of the cameras otherwise, however.

Lauri Turner, owner of the Hatbox Haberdashery in Austin, for instance, said her shop had been the victim of more then half-a-dozen crimes. “I don’t care about the perpetrator’s rights anymore, at all,” she said.

Headline Link: Security cameras on the rise despite questions of effectiveness

Background: CCTV studies; privacy concerns

Opinions & Analysis: ‘George Orwell was prophetic’


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