Examining The Social Control And Regulation Criminology Essay

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The formal criminal justice system plays only a minor role in achieving social control and regulation'. Examine this statement in relation to the methods and stratagies employed to control and regulate both those who may be considered a threat of offending and ordinary members of the public.

The formal criminal justice system is a collection of organisations and processes including the police, courts, both magistrate and crown, the crown prosecution, probation and prison services that have been developed to respond to crime by the state ("Criminal justice system" 2009,). The purpose criminal justice system is to react to crime and deliver justice (Garside, 2008) by punishing the offender and helping them to stop offending. Modern society has become more concerned with risks and potential threats to society (Lyon 2004, p. 136), these threats may be external or from problematic groups within society itself. The criminal justice system is limited in controlling and regulating these potential threats and this has led to an increase in private organisations using technological security innovations to monitor and reduce the risks and threats as well as ordinary members of society (Zender 2009, p. 90).

Surveillance in its simplest form means watching people (Norris and Armstrong 1999, p. 3) and is key to the criminal justice system, the technologies used collect data on members of society that are deemed to be members of suspect groups, like youth gangs or terrorists for example, but also collects and stores data on the entire society (Zender 2009, p. 74). Zender (2009, p. 75) argues that the justification for these surveillance measures that can infringe civil liberties is the high profile threats to security such as international and organised crime terrorism and fraud. We are living in a surveialliance society (Ball, Lyon, Wood, Norris ans Raab 2006) and it has come about with little public debate about survelliance. Some of it is necessary for providing essential services like health care and benefits but some of it is unjustified, intrusive and oppressive.

One of the many methods of surveillance that is used to control and regulate not only problem groups but also ordinary people within society is CCTV. The uk has experienced a massive growth of CCTV and now saturation coverage is approaching (Norris and Armstrong 1999, p.55) which has been driven from political support, from both the conservatives and Labour, in an attempt to reverse the decline of city centre shopping centres and combat fear of terrorism, crime and hooliganism. Indeed new Labours policy of being tough on crime used CCTV as a tool to move away from their previous image of being soft on crime. Norris and Armstrong (1999, p. 55) state that the growth of CCTV has not been informed on evidence based research about where and how CCTV should be introduced but more on an ad hoc basis and this has led to a range of public cctv systems that have different roles and levels of success.

Whilst CCTV can be used to provide evidence for arrest and prosecution it is also an effective tool to control and regulate groups of individuals deemed to be at risk of offending, gangs of youths for example. Sivarajasingam, Sheppard and Matthews (2003, p. 315) highlight the ways in which CCTV achieves the control and regulation of those individuals, firstly, perpetrators of crime that persistently offend will be caught and punished, this in turn will deter them from committing more crime. Secondly it could deter potential youth offenders through fear of being observed by CCTV operators or identified at a later stage by being captured on camara. Thirdly by using CCTV, operators are able to direct security staff and police officers to areas where groups of youths are gathering or suspicious behaviour is occurring. The presence of security staff or police officers may deter offenders or even catch them in the act.

It is not just those deemed at rik of offending that are controlled and regulated by the use of CCTV, ordinary members of society are also controlled and regulated by it. Some schools and nurseries are now using CCTV, (CCTV today, cited by Norris and Armstrong 1999, p. 53) initially this was to be used for teaching puposes as it recorded the children in natural play but now it is used to control who is collecting the children from school by verifying their identity.

Local authorities use CCTV to control and regulate council estates in major cities (Norris and Armstrong 1999, p. 51), the camaresa tend to be limited to communial areas, carparks, entrances, lifts and reception areas with the pictures being monitored by local authority employees. However on one housing estate in Doncaster residents can also watch the CCTV system on a spare channel on their televisions that have been programmed to receive output from the CCTV cameras monitoring the public areas (Yorkshire post, cited by Norris and Armstrong 1999, p. 51). This means that those deemed at risk of offending, like youths, and ordinary members of the public are having their behaviour controlled and regulated by not only the local authority but also by their neighbours.

The biggest area in which ordinary people are controlled and regulated by using this tyoe of surveillance is the motorist (Ball. Lyon, Wood, Norris and Raab 2006). Railtrack uses CCTV to monitor level crossings to control when it is safe for the general public to cross and also that the track is clear when the train crosses. Speed camaras and red light enforcement camaras are also now in use on most major roads in the uk and according to Norris and Armstrong (1999 p. 53) these have made offenders of alot of ordinary members of society. Digitisation has allowed for the increase of automated systems of CCTV which has led to the introduction of a national network of automatic number plate readers (Ball, Lyon, Wood, Norris and Raab 2006). By integrating digital camaras and computer technology the automatic number plate recognition system is capable of reading number plates as cars pass by, these numbers are then stored for up to 2 years and matched against a database of suspect or wanted vechiles.

Ordinary members of society are also being controlled and regulated whilst at work (McCahill and Norris, cited by Norris and Armstrong 1999, p. 57) with employers installing overt and covert CCTV camaeras in offices and workplaces to monitor their staff. Some examples of these covert surveillances that have come to light include a parcel force employee who was sacked after he was filmed by CCTV cameras playing Frisbee during working hours.

CCTV systems and operation can vary but on a basic level can be divided into passive systems and active systems. McChill and Norris, (2002) explain the difference in the two systems, passive systems involve images that are simply recorded and stored, these can be accessed at a later date and can be used to provide evidence. Active systems involve a person monitoring the images produced by the CCTV cameras who often has the ability to manipulate the cameras to focusthem on a specific area, group of individuals or suspicious activity or incident. Images are recorded 24 hours a day and some systems provide 24 hour a day monitoring.

McCahill and Norris (2002) highlight that control room managers can come from a range of different backgrounds and thios can lead to a dramatic difference related to the management of systems and cultures across operators. Since there is no obligation for CCTV operatives to get a licence through the security industry authority (SIA) implemented in 2006 and this leads to a range of abilities across CCTV staff and because trainging can be done in house this could lead to bad habits being passed from one operator to another.

Surveillance, such as CCTV, provides society with many benefits but it also has negative consequences. Many of the debates surrounding the use of CCTV centre around the issue of privacy. Under british law there is no general right to privacy (Norris and Armstrong 1999, p. 27), those who wish to challenge the right of any local authority or police force to photograph them would have to do so on the grounds of either trespass and nuisance, defamation, breach of confidence or breach of copyright. Sharpe (1989, cited by Norris and Armstrong 1999, p. 27) states that none of these would be successful in relation to CCTV systems operating in a public space.

Surveillance using CCTV can vary according to place and social class, wthnicity and gender. CCTV operatives are faced with the task of selecting which people and activities out of the mass of images are worthy of special attention and this can lead to discrimination (Norris and Armstrong 1999, p. 108). The types of groups that are deemed to be problematic by CCTV operatives may be influenced by the prejudices of the operator. Reseaarch has been conducted according to Norris and Armstrong (1999, p, 110) that found between 71% and 93% of individuals targeted were male. Race has also been seen as a factor in the selection of targets with some operatives targeting black males. Dress codes also make a difference to whether an individual is targeted for special attention by CCTV operatives with scruffier dressed individuals more likely to be targeted. Norris and Armstrong (1999, p. 109) discovered that CCTV operatives focus their attention on young men, particularly teenagers. Teenagers account for less than 15% of the population but constituted nearly 40% of those singled out for targeted surveillance.

Research into the publics opinion of CCTV has produced mixed results (Ditton 2000, p.700), many studies have found widespread support for CCTV but others have found that levels of support may be overstated. CCTV cameras are often installed to reassure the public and reduce fear of crime but to do this effectively the public must be aware of the presence of cameras. Ditton (2000, p. 704) discovered that only 33% of individuals in Glasgow city were aware of the presence of camars, this figure rose to 41% 15 months after installation. The presence of camaras does not necessarily reduce the fear of crime, indeed they may act as a warning to citizens that the area may be problematic or a crime hotspot. The research discovered that those members of the public who were aware of the camareas expressed higher levels of worry about crime. The general concerns that the public have regarding the use of CCTV are that the operators will somehow abuse the system or that the system would be used in a covert way. Many have just a general unease at being watched or that CCTV evidence could be misleading or used in an inappropriate way.

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Garside, R. (2008) The purpose of the criminal justice system. Retrieved April 26, 2011, from http://www.crimeandjustice.org.uk/opus548.html

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Norris, C., & Armstrong, G. (1999) Maximum Surveillance Society: The rise of CCTV. [Electronic version]. Oxford: Berg Publishers.

Zender, L. (2009) Security. [Electronic Version] Florence: Routledge.

Ball, K., Lyon, D. Wood, D.M., Norris, C. and Raab, C. (2006) A Report on the Surveillance Society for the Information Commissioner by the Surveillance Studies Network. [Online]. http://www.dataprotection.ie/docs/A_Report_on_the_Surveillance_Society_For_the_Information_Com/386.htm

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