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Optimizing the Use of Video Technology to Improve Criminal Justice Outcomes

NCJ Number
Date Published
18 pages

This report describes an evaluation study of the Milwaukee Police Department’s efforts to optimize its public surveillance network, laying out the study’s jurisdiction and interventions, methods and data collection, findings, and implications for criminal justice policy and practice; it also provides two appendixes with information on camera operation centers and panel regressions on the impact of camera program interventions on crime.


This document provides a technical summary report of the Urban Institute’s evaluation of efforts with the Milwaukee Police Department (MPD) in Minnesota, to improve its public surveillance network. The two video analytic technologies were: automatic license plate recognition cameras, and high-definition cameras connected to gunshot detection technology. The goal of the study was to conduct a rigorous process, impact, and cost-effectiveness evaluation of the process that MPD took to optimize its network, which included improving operations, installing new cameras, and integrating the two video analytic technologies into its system. The study used a mixed-methods research design; qualitative data collection included in-depth observations of MPD’s camera operations to understand to understand their practices and determine which types of improvements would most benefit from the program, as well as stakeholder interviews with staff members working directly with the camera program or using its footage in their work. Findings indicated that the impact of those interventions was mixed, they also yielded several important lessons for improving criminal justice policy and practices: first, police departments should have strong collaborative relationships with surveillance system vendors; second, agencies seeking to optimize their systems should regularly re-evaluate their goals and processes to maximize new technologies’ effectiveness; and finally, departments should take steps to make all staff aware of the technologies.

Date Published: January 1, 2024