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The Positive Effects of closed circuit television on crime control significantly outweighs any concerns about the development of a 'big brother' society. Discuss
It is increasingly recognised that we now 'live in a surveillance society' (Ball, Lyon, Wood, Norris and Raab, 2006: 5) and that over the past thirty years in particular considerable advances in technology have increased the state's as well as the private sector's power to carry out surveillance (Lyon, 2007). This surveillance now occurs in many different forms and locations (Phillips, 1999: 123) whether it be as part of the wide spread expansion of Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) (Norris and Armstrong, 1999a) or through 'dataveillance' a term coined by Roger Clarke (1988; 1994) describing the collection and monitoring of personal information. When combined these many different forms of surveillance have inevitably brought with them visions of an Orwellian society where we are under the constant vigilant gaze and attentive ear of 'big brother' (Orwell, 1948), which is justified on the basis of reducing risk and improving the world we live in (Home Office, 2002). However despite the media increasingly proclaiming 'CCTV Works' (CCTV image, 2010) much research into this surveillance technology in particular which will be discussed has not produced consistently positive results in regard to crime control. Therefore this essay calls into question whether the infringements upon our civil liberties and personal freedoms that this developing 'big brother' society inflicts upon us through a loss of anonymity, choice and consent, increasing social exclusion, targeted suspicion, and function creep (Davies, 1996), are rightly justified. However, in order to evaluate the positive effects of CCTV on crime control it is first necessary to consider the theory behind the technology which defines the ways in which it is assumed to be useful for controlling crime.
The 'nine mechanism's' of CCTV which were originally developed by Pawson and Tilley (1994; 1997) but have since been manipulated and extended by other writers in their own evaluations (See; NACRO, 2002; Gill and Spriggs, 2005), dictate they ways that CCTV should be expected to operate in order to produce positive effects for crime control. The nine mechanism's can be broadly split into five largely simplistic assumptions that state CCTV will effectively control crime by; deterring the potential offender (an assumption that is based upon rational choice theory (Cornish and Clarke, 1986) which suggests as the offender becomes aware of the presence of CCTV and assesses the risks and weighs up the benefits of offending at that location, hopefully they will be deterred and choose not to offend or offend elsewhere); encouraging the efficient deployment of security staff or police as cameras allow the scene to be monitored and determine whether police assistance is required; by encouraging self discipline within potential victims as well as offenders; through the presence of a capable guardian (an assumption based on routine activities theory which suggests that the presence CCTV (the capable guardian) will reduce the likelihood a motivated offender will commit crime against a suitable target); and lastly by increasing the chances CCTV will capture the offenders image and result in them being brought to justice. However, despite the theory behind CCTV (Pawson and Tilley, 1994; 1997) presenting an optimistic picture for its usefulness in controlling crime, many studies that have evaluated its effectiveness since its introduction have not produced generally positive results
One of the earliest studies of CCTV conducted by Musheno, Levine and Palumbo (1978) failed to show a crime reduction effect on a housing project. Musheno and colleagues (1978) concluded that CCTV failed to deter crime after a victimisation survey conducted indicated that four out of eight crime types increased and the other types only experienced a tiny decline after the installation of CCTV. However, it has been argued by Phillips (1999) that it is possible that the evaluation of the project took place too soon after implementation for the CCTV to have a deterrent effect. Potential offenders were also unlikely to have been 'caught in the act' (Pawson and Tilley, 1994; 1997) as only fourteen per cent of the participants interviewed claimed they watched the cameras at least once day (Phillips, 1999). However, more recently there has been a great deal of better quality research into the effectiveness of CCTV on crime control, which has still produced similarly ambiguous results.
Brown's (1995) study based in Birmingham, Kings Lynn and Newcastle found that CCTV reduced property crime in all areas, especially burglary but cameras had little impact on preventing personal crimes such as assaults, although they were successful in coordinating a quick response which may have reduced the seriousness of the incident, suggesting Pawson and Tilley's (1994; 1997) mechanism of 'effective deployment' was at work in this case. Conversely, Short and Ditton (1998) produced more optimistic findings and claimed that some offenders were deterred when they were aware of the presence of CCTV and others resorted to less serious offences. Likewise a study conducted by Gill and Turbin (1999) also produced positive results as the presence of CCTV was shown to give third parties more confidence to challenge offenders. However it was also discovered that as a result of the installation of cameras, public vigilance decreased as their confidence in the technology as a crime control mechanism grew which created additional possibilities for crime (Gill and Turbin, 1999). Gill and Turbin (1999) also note the presence of CCTV might have reduced the occurrence of 'natural surveillance' as fewer people will frequent spaces that are surveilled by CCTV for dislike of being watched.
More recently, a comprehensive systematic review into the effectiveness of CCTV in controlling crime has been conducted by Welsh and Farrington (2002). They reviewed twenty two studies that met the minimum standards of the Campbell Collaboration which specifies that they must meet level three of the Maryland scientific methods scale that requires a measurement of the incidence of crime before and after the installation of CCTV in the target area as well as a controlled one (Sherman, Gottfredson, MacKenzie, Eck, Reuter and Bushway, 1998). Despite the use of more rigorous methodology Welsh and Farrington (2002) still concluded that CCTV only had a modest impact on crime rates with barely half the studies out of the eighteen included showing a desirable effect on crime rates. However, CCTV was found to be most effective in reducing levels of vehicle crimes in car parks with crime rates being halved in car parks where CCTV was installed compared to those without it (Welsh and Farrington, 2002), suggesting its positive effects on crime control might be exaggerated in these areas. The systematic review acknowledged that CCTV can provide more noticeable benefits when focussed on specific targets such as car thieves and recommended that the UK should utilise CCTV to this effect in contrast to its current broad application (Welsh and Farrington, 2002).
Gill and Spriggs (2005) reported findings akin to that of Welsh and Farrington (2002) and identified that six out of the thirteen CCTV systems they studied showed a reduction in all relevant crime. Nevertheless, only two of the areas that did produce positive results achieved statistically significantly better results than the control areas after the installation of CCTV. Shockingly, the study also reported that in seven areas, crime rates actually increased after the introduction of CCTV. Gill and Spriggs (2005) also found CCTV to have more positive effects for crime control in a mixed category of areas such as car parks and hospitals with town centres and residential systems showing varied results. The study identified that displacement of crime into surrounding areas, or into the gaps in coverage between the cameras, did occur as a result of the installation of CCTV too (Gill and Spriggs, 2005). However Gill and Spriggs (2005) did acknowledged that explanations in the reductions and increases in crime rates could be accorded to general changing crime trends including fluctuations in crime rates caused by seasonal, divisional and national trends as well as additional crime control initiatives such as street lighting, which might have begun before the CCTV was installed. Although even after this was taken into account they still concluded 'CCTV is not effective, the majority of schemes evaluated did not reduce crime and even when there was a reduction this was mostly not due to CCTV' (Gill and Spriggs, 2005: 36).
As mentioned the construction of surveillance systems like CCTV is justified on the basis of reducing risk and improving society (Davies, 1996), a defence increasingly used by the state in response to Britain's so called 'war on terror' (Lyon, 2003a) that suggests if we have nothing to hide then we have nothing to fear (See; O'Hara and Shadbolt). A recently published Home Office Policy Review (2002: 48) states that 'citizens are asked to accept the gathering of greater levels of information and intelligence in the knowledge that this will facilitate improvements in public safety and law enforcement'. However as has been demonstrated so far it has not been proven that CCTV initiatives always result in positive benefits for crime control. Therefore it should be called into question whether the infringements upon our civil liberties and privacy which are recognised as a consequence of the expansion of CCTV and the rise of the 'big brother' society more generally (Davies, 1996), are rightly justified.
It is not just CCTV systems that surveille you hundreds of times a day. Supermarkets increasingly collect your personal information through loyalty cards, communication records and sometimes even the content of calls are recorded, whilst biometrics such as fingerprints and iris scans are also being increasingly collected by a variety of bodies in both the public and private sector (Ball et al, 2006). Due to the growth of the collection of numerical and categorical data in particular, there is said to have been a growth in 'dataveillance' (Clarke, 1988; 1994) or the 'systematic use of personal data systems in the investigation or monitoring of the actions or communications of one or more persons' which has brought with it concerns regarding threats to anonymity, the permanence of record (Clarke, 2006), and the misinterpretation of data (Ball et al, 2006), which could have an effect on social exclusion. It is also not only the state and private organisations that increasingly undertake surveillance. As Ball and colleagues (2006) highlight, after the London terrorist attacks of 2005, both the police and television companies were encouraging people to use their mobile telephone to film 'suspicious characters'. Koskela (2004) also draws our attention to the way that thousands of people are putting their lives on display through social networking sites such as Bebo and MySpace with Acquisti and Gross (2006) raising the potential security and privacy issues of Facebook.
Linked to the issues of privacy that Acquisti and Gross (2006) raise in regard to Facebook in their article is the concept on anonymity. Ball and colleagues (2006: 42) suggest 'anonymity has long seen as one of the key aspects of modern life' however it seems 'one of the first casualties of pervasive surveillance, and particularly of ID systems, is the anonymity that allowed people to escape from the intense human surveillance strictures of small communities'. Increasingly in the developing 'big brother' society those being surveilled are also often not asked permission for 'the watchers' to do so therefore restricting the choice and consent of citizens in this 'big brother society'. The general public are not asked permission to be surveilled using CCTV systems (Ball et al, 2006) and likewise the denial of anonymity on toll-roads highlighted in Clarke's (2007: 51) discussion of 'uberveillance' is similarly absent of any consent from the vehicle driver. This similar loss of anonymity we increasingly experience in the developing 'big brother' society has been compared to the surveillance that prisoner's would expect to be subject to in Bentham's (1787) concept of the panoptican.
Much criminological literature focussing on CCTV in particular and the discourse of surveillance more generally has been dominated by Jeremy Bentham's concept of the Panoptican (1787) that described an architectural system of social discipline to be used in prisons, workhouses asylums and factories (as cited in; Norris and McCahill, 2006: 1). Fyfe and Bannister (1996) describe the growth of CCTV as a kind of 'electronic panoptican' and Reeve (1998: 71) has argued that CCTV can act as a 'device of total surveillance in a rationally ordered society', just as a panoptican does. For Foucault (1975) panoptic surveillance represents a new mode of power not only by enabling swift intervention to displays of non-conformity but also through the promotion of habituated anticipatory conformity (as cited in; Norris and Armstrong, 1999: 6). This all suggests that as members of the general public we now experience a similar loss of liberty due to the rise of the 'big brother' society, just as those in the panoptic prison would. However Haggerty (2006) has called into question the extent to which CCTV could be said to be 'panoptic'.
Norris and Armstrong (1999a: 92) recognise that 'the totalising vision of the panoptican prison is not simply reproduced on the streets with the introduction of cameras'. Unlike captive prisoners in Bentham's panoptican (Bentham, 2003) the transitory population of the city streets are apparently able to escape the gaze, although due to the fact that we are apparently captured on camera three hundred times every day (Norris and Armstrong, 1999a: 42), the extent we are able to escape the gaze becomes questionable. Furthermore Norris and Armstrong (1999a) also claim that the public are not subject to the 'automatic functioning of power' that requires those under surveillance to be aware of it. Although studies by Hones and Charman (1992) as well as Squires and Measor (1996) have both reported that only as much as two thirds of the population using streets surveilled by cameras are in fact aware of this suggesting the public do in fact experience an 'automatic functioning of power' (Norris and Armstrong, 1999a). However despite the ambiguity over the extent to which CCTV systems can be compared to the panoptican, other theorists have gone even further beyond merely the disciplinary power that this so called electronic panoptican produces, to describe how the expansion of CCTV and the big brother society generally dictates other forms of social control (Garland, 2001).
The rise of a 'big brother' society which CCTV is deemed to be a part of (Davies, 1996) has also resulted in increased levels of 'social sorting' (Lyon, 2003). Social sorting has been highlighted as a concern of the developing 'big brother' society as it involves the categorisation and ranking of populations and can be seen in many guises, for instance at national borders, in the climate of heightened national security (Lyon, 2003b) and the proposed National ID cards that would differentiate between individuals eligible for services, and those that are not (Lyon, 2005). Social Sorting can also be seen in the private sector, for example telecommunication companies who routinely gather and manipulate personal data of customers to sort and categorise them as different 'types' of consumers (Green and Smith, 2003). These increased levels of social sorting that the 'big brother' society has brought with it, inevitably as a result limits access to certain services for a much of the general population and results in much social exclusion. Universal provisions of access to services are diminishing, resulting in a situation not based on democratic citizenship but one where services are targeted, accessible to those who are allowed and priced differently for different persons in different places (Ball et al, 2006: 32). Despite some declaring the intention of this social sorting is simply to increase efficiency (Graham and Wood, 2003) it spells increased social control for others, an unwanted result of the increasing 'big brother' society that we should not have to put up with, especially when the certain forms of surveillance such as CCTV have been proven to have little positive effects on crime control. In regards to CCTV specifically this technology acts to extend exclusionary strategies even further to publicly owned space (von Hirsch and Shearing, 2000: 77).
CCTV acts as an exclusionary measure by eradicating public spaces of certain behaviours and as Lyon (2003b) argues, certain classes of people, in order to avoid the disruption of 'the proper commercial image of the high street (Lyon, 2003b). MacCahill (1999, as cited in Lyon, 2003b: 266 - 267) and Wakefield (2000) have both documented how CCTV control rooms act to control exclusion. Wakefield (2000) found the main reasons for exclusion most commonly being a regular known offender, with drunkenness and vagrancy and being children or youths also being reported as reasons for exclusion by CCTV operators. Operators in McCahill's (1999: 211) study took the stance that exclusion should be based on commercial considerations, and saw youths as the most 'flawed customers, therefore rather than facilitating inclusionary social control, CCTV actually becomes a powerful enforcer of social exclusion (as cited in; Lyon, 2003: 267). Another form of social sorting can be seen in the discretion of CCTV operators who target certain behaviours to surveille.
Although with the introduction of CCTV it could be said that the act of surveillance has become more democratic, in reality it has intensified categorical suspicion. Far from being the 'Friendly eye in the sky' (Norris and Armstrong, 1999b: 158) that impartially watches over the whole population, only targeting those that act suspiciously, selection for targeted surveillance is in fact differentiated by age, gender and race. Norris and Armstrong (1999b) found in their study of three CCTV control rooms that ninety three per cent of targets for surveillance were on men and thirty nine per cent on teenagers. Although Norris and Armstrong (1999a: 112 - 113) did find that displays of 'suspicious behaviour' did play a part in the operators determining who was surveilled, they found over a third of people targeted were surveilled on the basis of belonging to a certain subcultural or social group. Norris and Armstrong (1999a: 150) concluded that 'as this differentiation is not based on objective behavioural and individualised criteria, but merely on being categorised as part of a particular social group, such practises are discriminatory'. As a result this will result in the marginalization of such groups intensifying and increasing their chances of stigmatization, another concern arising from the rise of the 'big brother' society' that is not justified through positive effects on crime control.
Surveillance or 'big brother' societies also bring with them the fear of function creep, or the using of personal data collected for one reason yet used elsewhere to fulfil a different function (Lyon, 2007: 201). This intensifies surveillance even further and results in invasions of privacy beyond what was originally expected and considered ethically, legally and socially acceptable. For example Ball and colleagues (2006) bring to our attention the case of the use of Oyster Cards in London that originally were designed to ease the use of public transport around the capital, but are now being increasingly used in police inquiries (See; The Guardian, 2006). Function creep should be viewed as a major issue, one with potentially detrimental impacts for the rising 'big brother' society as it eradicates citizens of their previous assumed consent for the use of their data and surveillance.
Although it has been highlighted that the use of CCTV can have positive effects for controlling certain types of property crime committed in car parks (Brown, 1995; Welsh and Farrington, 2002) as well as rare serious offences such as murder and rape, and can be a useful tool for the police in managing 'informational uncertainty' (Norris and Armstrong, 1999a), Pawson and Tilley's (1994; 1997) nine mechanism's which describe how CCTV is assumed to control crime seem to be absent from most evaluations. Therefore a significant lack of evidence suggesting firmly established positive benefits of CCTV combined with concerns surrounding issues of justice, fairness and equality that the technology raises which are concurrent with issues regarding the general rise of a 'big brother' society, it seems an acceptable conclusion to draw that the positive benefits of CCTV on crime control do not outweigh any concerns about the development of a 'big brother' society. Hopefully as time passes and people's awareness of CCTV's limitations grows public support will begin to diminish as those who were previously happy to forgo some personal privacy in return for greater levels of security and safety will acknowledge the true reality, that CCTV is not worth the loss of anonymity, choice and consent, social exclusion, targeted suspicion and function creep it currently inflicts upon us, just as current groups such as 'Big Brother Watch' Big Brother, n.d) and 'Liberty' (Liberty, n.d) already are.