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CCTV: Constant Cameras Track Violators

NCJ Number
NIJ Journal Issue: 249 Dated: July 2003 Pages: 16-23
Date Published
July 2003
8 pages
Publication Series

This article discusses the benefits and disadvantages (privacy concerns) of using closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras to monitor public spaces.


Currently, the most prevalent use of CCTV by law enforcement agencies in the United States is the taping of traffic stops by cameras mounted in police vehicles. Until recently cameras were rarely used to monitor public spaces in the United States. Most of the research on the effectiveness of such use has been done in the United Kingdom. A study by the Home Office Police Research Group examined the effectiveness of CCTV systems in three English town centers. Among the findings was that analysis of crime data showed that the presence of CCTV can have a deterrent effect on a variety of offenses, especially property offenses; however, such reductions in crime can disappear as publicity about and awareness of the cameras fade. New computer technology allows CCTV systems to match recorded faces against a computer database of photos. The use of facial recognition technology in public areas is not yet readily accepted in the United States. By allowing small police forces to cover larger areas, however, facial recognition systems can lead to a greater number of arrests, at least in theory. Privacy advocates are uneasy about the use of CCTV to monitor public meetings and demonstrations. Training programs, clear policies and procedures, personnel background checks, and strict supervision of camera operators can help to mitigate some abuses. Courts have generally ruled that people do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy when in public, because their actions are readily observable by others. It is likely the CCTV will continue to expand, as will its use in enforcing traffic laws. 10 notes

Date Published: July 1, 2003