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Using CCTV to achieve a reduction in the level of street crime

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Criminology
Wordcount: 4825 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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“This paper examines the effectiveness of Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) to achieve a reduction in the level of street crime in urban societies with specific emphasis to Port of Spain Trinidad and Tobago”


Port of Spain is the capital of Trinidad and Tobago, a twin island Republic that is located off the north eastern point of South America. Trinidad and Tobago covers an area of 1,980 sq miles or 5,128 sq km with a population of 1.3 million. However, Port of Spain alone consists of 365 sq km with a population density of 128,000 persons and an increasing crime problem especially in the main shopping areas. The level of street crimes in Port of Spain has been escalating over the past five years. For example, reported crime increased in 2005 by 48% from 2004, 55% in 2006, 30% in 2007, 25% in 2008 and 25% in 2009.

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The most prevalent of these crimes include motor vehicle theft, robbery and murder. As a consequence, there are various preventative strategies that are frequently utilized to mitigate the effects of street crime. This research proposal is intended to identify a unique Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) system that can be applied to the reduction of escalating levels of street crime, the heightened fear of crime by both citizens and visitors alike, and antisocial behavior that takes place in public spaces in Port of Spain.

CCTV has been installed in Port of Spain by business place internal and external of their business property since the early nineteen nineties. These systems were effective in detecting and deterring criminal that prey on their business places. Historically, police forces in Britain (beginning with Durham in 1956) began to use CCTV to assist in the one-man operation of traffic lights” (ibid.: 13). In 1960 the Metropolitan police erected two pan-tilt and zoom cameras in Trafalgar Square to monitor the crowds during a Parliamentary State Visit and, although this was a temporary installation, it was re-erected later that year to monitor the revellers on Guy Fawkes night (ibid.: 4). By 1969, “14 different forces were using CCTV, a total of just 67 cameras nationally” (ibid.: 17). However, with the video recorder becoming commercially available during the 1960s, the early growth of CCTV was largely confined to the retail sector and by 1967, one company, Photoscan, was actively marketing CCTV to deter and apprehend shoplifters (McCahill & Norris, 2002). By 1991, there were no more than ten cities with open street systems in operation in the United Kingdom.

In 1993, the fuzzy CCTV images of toddler Jamie Bulger being led away from a Merseyside shopping mall by his two ten-year old killers placed CCTV in the spotlight. By the mid 1990s CCTV dominated the Government’s crime prevention programme, accounting for over three quarters of its budget. (Welsh and Farrington, 2004: 500). On the basis of these figures, we would estimate that around £4-5 billion has been spent on the installation of CCTV and maintenance of CCTV systems in the UK during the decade 1994-2004; and this excludes the monitoring costs associated with these systems.

In the United States, the first CCTV system set up in a public building was in 1969 in the New York City Municipal building. This practice quickly spread to other cities and was soon widely implemented. Unlike the UK, CCTV in public spaces in the United States is rarely used. However, in the 1970s and 80s, CCTV use became more common in establishments prone to security threats, like banks, convenience stores, and gas stations. Security cameras were installed in the World Trade Center as a preventative after the terrorist attack in 1993 (Alpha Card Systems 2006 – 2009). New York city with a large crime rate in September 1968, the United States government ordered the installation of video cameras on every street in an effort to combat and stop the crime. The use of these cameras and closed circuit television was a huge success, especially for the police in New York, where he worked all monitoring of these cameras. So began the great fight against crime through the cutting edge of technology (EzineArticles.com, 2010). Sutton and Wilson, in their review of CCTV in Australia reported that the number of cities possessing open street CCTV systems had increased from 13 in 1996 to 33 in 2002 (Wilson and Sutton, 2003).

The effectiveness of CCTV systems in achieving crime reduction benefits from a strategic approach intended to address the problem of street crime in urban developing societies, whereby Government funded CCTV in the United States, United Kingdom and Australia. To achieve the effectiveness and how it could impact in these areas research that utilises the scientific realism approach developed by Pawson and Tilley (1997) tried to identify how CCTV works and specifically in what contexts (see Tilley 1993, Gill and Spriggs, 2005). Academics (Armitage et al., 1999; Tilley 1993) have documented several ways or mechanisms that could result in CCTV bringing about change in an area and those devised by Tilley (1993, quoted in Gill and Spriggs, 2005) are as follows:

Caught in the act – CCTV could reduce crime by increasing the likelihood that present offenders will be caught, stopped, removed, punished and therefore deterred.

You’ve been framed – CCTV could reduce crime by deterring potential offenders who will not want to be observed by CCTV operators or have evidence against them captured on camera.

Nosey Parker – a reduction could take place because more natural surveillance is encouraged as more people use the area covered by CCTV. This may deter offenders who fear an increased risk of apprehension.

Effective deployment – CCTV may facilitate the effective deployment of security staff and police officers to locations where suspicious behaviour is occurring. Their presence may deter offenders, or may mean they are caught in the act.

Publicity (general) – this may assist in deterring offenders.

Publicity (specific) – CCTV cameras and signs show people are taking crime seriously, and thus offenders may be deterred.

Time for Crime – CCTV may have less of an impact on crimes that can be done quickly as opposed to those that take a longer time, as offenders assume that they will have enough time to avoid the cameras, or to escape from police officers and security staff.

Memory jogging – publicity about CCTV encourages potential victims to be more security conscious and to take precautionary measures.

Appeal to the cautious – those who are more security minded use the areas with CCTV, driving out the more careless who are vulnerable to crime elsewhere (cited in Department of Criminology module 1 2009: 8 – 15).

The theoretical possibilities for CCTV system as a means of reducing crime as examined in Brown (1995) study on the use of CCTV in the town centres of Newcastle, Birmingham and King’s Lynn in London. He indicated by short term evaluations of town centre schemes crime is deterred when cameras are first installed within an area. Brown also pointed out that camera coverage in Birmingham decreased robbery and theft from the person in the areas and with the impact of CCTV the survey found that people who were aware of the cameras felt safe in the city centre streets after dark after the cameras were introduced.

The research Proposal utilized secondary data collection by searching the internet databases, searched reviews of the literature on the effectiveness of CCTV in deterring crime and searched journals/ bibliographies of CCTV reports to achieve the desired data and information for this research proposal.

There is much available research data and information on CCTV that can extracted from internet web sites, online databases and from Leicester university blackboard using the keywords for example effectiveness CCTV, research CCTV, Crime and CCTV, Situational Crime Prevention and CCTV reducing crime.

Developed urban societies of the world today thrive on the presumption that surveillance is part of their everyday life. This perception and acceptance has led to public acknowledgement that the United Kingdom is indeed a surveillance society (Ball et al., 2006). The use of CCTV systems as a formal surveillance measure of situational crime prevention is likely to bring benefits in reducing crime in hot spots areas. According to Norris and Armstrong (1999) CCTV was a panacea for crime and disorder. CCTV system requires the combined efforts of the Government as well as the private sector. As a matter of fact, private sector involvement has contributed to reduced costs for local councils (cited in Department of Criminology module 1 2009: 8 – 11).

The proposal will show that CCTV system will be developed and will be utilised initially as a crime prevention tool in the holistic crime prevention plan and secondary as safety incidents support. The proposal will also show that CCTV will improve the detection and deterrence of crime, reduce crime and anti social behaviour by providing surveillance to buildings, roads, bridges, schools, citizen and visitors, furthermore, assisting in response to local emergencies such as major flooding, fires, traffic management and community incidents resulting in reduce fear of crime and fear of anti social behaviour, increase public reassurance and supporting and enhancing neighbourhood safety. The proposal will identify a unique system that includes the necessary software and hardware, training and maintenance required.

Theoretical perspective and concepts

Cessare Lombrosso (1835-1901) believed that people were ‘born’ criminals and destined to a life of crime. However criminologists who supported the premises that crime has some biological basis linked believe that criminals have also social and situational conditions rather than biological abnormality or psychological problems (Siegel, 2007: 8). From then to now there are many theories and concepts that identified the causation of crime and more so street crime. Globally there are numerous types of street crime ranging from pilfering to murder. These street crimes are varies types of personal attacks which a person could have inflicted upon another, ranging from common assault, actual bodily harm, grievous bodily harm and there are sexual assaults range from indecent assault to full rape threatened the safety of persons in the society, therefore, resulting in people for example, the elderly, women, young children and teenagers having limits on their freedom of movement and prevent them from fully participating in the society. These crimes affect people in the New York United States of America, London United Kingdom, Sydney Australia and Port of Spain Trinidad and Tobago.

Governments utilized Situational crime prevention supported by rational choice theory, routine activity and crime pattern theory (Clarke, 1993, Felson, 1994) to mitigation the consequence of street crime. These Situational crime prevention strategies have in some countries control, reduce or even partially eliminate crime, the fear of crime and antisocial behaviors. One of the strategies utilised to reduce crime was CCTV, a type of situational crime prevention (e.g., Clarke, 1995) which was classified by Clarke and Homel’s (1997) as a technique of formal surveillance supporting law enforcers. This support could provide proactive approach for law enforcement officers to detect and respond timely.

Cohen & Felson (1979) fundamental of routine activity theory is that an incident can occur where the convergence of the presence of a potential offender, in the vicinity of a suitable target in the same place and time, and in the absence of a ‘capable guardian’ (a person or system that could prevent or discourage the offence). CCTV applied to routine activity theory can be perceived as a form of capable guardian that could be utilized to change the offender calculated decision to commit street crime where the risk is too high of the offender being seen resulting in being caught.

According to Cullen and Agnew (2003) Rational Choice Theory operates on the premise that humans behave in a purely rational manner performing action that are for their own benefit (Scott, 2000), humans will naturally make a decision that will avoid pain and provide the greatest amount of pleasure, even if it means violating the law (Bentham, 1789) Rational Choice Theory established that street crimes occurs when a perpetrator decides to break the law after considering both opportunistic factors, for example, the need for money, revenge, thrill, entertainment and situational factors such as how attractive the target. Therefore, rational choice perspectives integrated with CCTV, street crime can be prevented. Research has examined the effect of CCTV on offenders’ behaviour across a range of contexts and identified that CCTV tends to be an effective deterrent against planned offences and impacts more on premeditated crimes (Brown, 1995; Welsh and Farrington, 2002; Gill et al., 2005).

Crime pattern theory is a combination of the routine activity theory and rational choice perspective that identifies crime across places in terms of rational offenders noticing potential or suitable targets, and the absence/presence of potential guardians (no CCTV). Crime pattern theory is that crime is not distributed evenly (e.g. Brantingham and Brantingham, 2008); some locations are at higher risk of victimization than others. These high risk areas or hot spots could be the focus of the placement of CCTV cameras in the correct locations. Crime displacement generates from mitigating crime in hot spots areas, can similarly be higher in some environmental contexts than others, for example, the eastern side of Port of Spain and focus in these areas for cameras location is essential.

Analysing the impact of CCTV on public behaviour, Mazerolle (2002) found that the cameras created an initial deterrence in the two-month period after installation but to prolong the effect recommended increasing the deterrence of using signs and short sporadic cameras deployment. The types of mechanisms that need to be utilised to increase the perceived risk of CCTV for offenders include using publicity detailing successes of the cameras and the capabilities of systems (Cited in Department of Criminology 2009: 8 – 22).

The framework to explore a unique CCTV system as situational crime prevention tool can assist law enforcement personnel in reducing street crime whereby increases the risk of the offender. Increasing the risk makes the target appears to be unattractive and this discourages the offender of committing the act. CCTV system acting as formal surveillance can be increased by:

The installation of cameras employs in hot spots and displacement areas will effectively and efficiently patrol will create that effect on the minds of the perpetrators that they being watched

The presence of cameras acting as a capable guardian could deter offender (s) generate a sense of feeling that they being seen, resulting in the offender recalculating his or her decision to commit that act.

Strategically place cameras can project an advantage view of incidents that occur. The system main purpose is to assist the law enforcement personnel in the coordination of effective response and also to monitor areas in response to assistance requested.

The system at the control room can assisted in the identification and the arrest of criminal by keeping offenders under surveillance by the operators of the offender (s) who flee from the crime scene, hide behind barriers or conceal themselves in large groups of people. The operators can communicate this information to law enforcement personnel within the environment.

The system assists law enforcement personnel in their investigation by providing information that can be transformed into evidence. This information gathered by recording of law enforcement response to an incident. The information can assist in identifying and locating witnesses who was in the immediate area, also to assist in deploying law enforcement personnel to the incident scene to have the area sterile. The information as evidence can be useful in court to acquire a guilty verdict of the offender(s).

Recorders at the control room will be able to have recorded information for at least thirty days. Broadcasting to the public this information could deter offender (s) from sabotaging the system, as the video information could be acquire to be use as evidence.

The installation of a unique CCTV system may have a different impact within different environments and affect different crimes in different ways, according to Honess and Charman (1992) who reported that the public felt that cameras would have little effect on offences such as (drunken) disorderliness and rowdy behaviour, because ‘they will do it anyway. However, with the intervention of sophisticated technology features such as night vision, computer assisted operation for example facial recognition, behavioural pattern software, and motion detection facilities which allows the operator to identify faces and behaviour of offenders for example disorderliness and rowdy behaviour of persons. The effect of the system clarity of the pictures is often excellent, with many systems being able to recognize a person at a hundred metres. The systems can often work in pitch blackness, bringing images up to daylight level this will create the perception in the mind of the perpetrator that he or she is continually being watched resulting with offenders changing their minds to decide to commit a criminal act.

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The evaluation of CCTV in the past has shown that it could work, according to Ditton & Short (1999), subsequent to the installation of open-street CCTV in Airdrie, recorded crimes and offences fell to 79% of their previously recorded levels, and detections rose from 50% to 58%. Conversely, after the installation of open-street CCTV in Glasgow, recorded crimes and offences rose to 109% of their previously recorded levels, and detections fell from 64% to 60%. It could therefore be concluded that CCTV worked in Airdrie, but not in Glasgow.

Research methods

The research methodologies in developing this proposal will take the form of sample population method process by partnering with stakeholders to collect data and information the police service, the commercial property owners or operators and the residents within the area. The proposal will also be supported by secondary data collection by searching the internet databases, searched reviews of the literature on the effectiveness of CCTV in deterring crime and searched Leicester University module 3 and Blackboard, journals/ bibliographies of CCTV reports to achieve the desired data and information for this research proposal.

The preference collection of data and information will be on crime before and after CCTV was installed in urban developing societies such as New York, London and Sydney. Statistics on crime in the Port of Spain area will be informal interviews with certain members of TTPS in relation to crime reported, the hot spots areas, vulnerable spaces, and main junction to assist to identify cameras locations and informal interviews with retail outlets owners or operators in Port of Spain of the crimes data occurred before and after installation of their CCTV system. Data and information will be also be collected on a unique CCTV system that will be effective in Port of Spain, a training programme for control room operations, a maintenance package to displace, replace and maintain the cameras, and supporting equipment and respectable budget.

A unique CCTV system consists of modern technologies (hardware and software), places and people. CCTV system comprises of fixed or Pan Tilt Zoom (PTZ) camera that could be mounted on a wall, a street Light Pole, a fence or the roof of a building, a monitoring centre that comprises of wall mounted monitors and desk top monitors, recording facility, data processing area and communication area and also available response teams to act on the available information received via the cameras and communicated via the communication to prevent, deter or apprehend offenders.

Analogue and Digital are the two types of CCTV camera systems available today. According to ezdigital.com Digital CCTV, or Digital Closed Circuit Television, is the technology used in modern surveillance systems. Traditional ,VCR, CCTV pictures are sent via CCTV cameras to a closed area, e.g. a CCTV Monitor, this type of CCTV is likely to produce lower resolution images and have to be displayed via cabling in the workplace. Modern Digital CCTV Systems can be operated remotely via a pc or mobile phone, can monitor various locations and can be monitored from wherever there is internet or GPRS Access. Whiles analogue CCTV systems, all CCTV Cameras are attached to a Multiplexor (A device that will split multiple camera pictures onto an individual CCTV Monitor). The Multiplexor then sends the analogue camera images to a Time Lapse Video Player. These are special CCTV recording devices that can record up to 960 hours of footage on a three hour Video Cassette. This method is still used today for simple CCTV installations but the quality of recording is usually very low (1 Frame Per 12.8 Seconds) (ezdigital.com assessed 17/10/2010).

At present there are several countries that are moving away from analogue system and adopted digital systems. Whereby the digital CCTV cameras information is transported via fibre optic or in other cases wireless broadband to the control room where law enforcement officers is suitable placed to monitor and action the relevant informant. An example of the surveillance cameras system used for reducing crime in LA’s MacArthur Park include Cyber Dome Day/Night 25X cameras equipped with removable infrared cut filters, 25x optical zoom lenses, 12x digital zoom capabilities, and 360-degree PTZ (pan tilt zoom) capabilities. This MacArthur Park system also includes GE Store safe DVRs (digital video recorders) and GE KTD-405 keypad controllers. DVRs are capable of saving CCTV data to a PC for up to ten weeks of recording and some even feature motion detection technology, which means that the footage is only recorded when motion triggers the DVR system . This is particularly useful for unmanned systems. The recorded information can be stored and/or reviewed by those who have access to the recordings at their convenience. Many of the latest DVRs also have network connections so that saved and live footage can be accessed remotely using any web browser with a live internet connection (LVH SYSTEMS Locksmith Services)

A training programme is part of the CCTV implementation system process whereas different aspect. These aspects includes technological installation of cameras and server recording area and also the monitoring or control area whereby targets and areas of interest can be monitored and the ability to retrieve the required information. Maintenance package is required to relocate, replace or clean if the where necessary.

A unique is a costly process and impact as identified in that there are 10,524 CCTV cameras in 32 London boroughs funded with Home Office grants totalling about £200 million indicated by Justin Davenport (2007).

These issues may be very important, the level of interest being dependent on reducing crime. Clearly, it will not be possible to make generalisations about the whole population if the study includes criminal of urban societies that were indentified. Social scientists are dependent upon the co-operation of ‘gatekeepers’, who can provide, or not provide, access (formal entry) to the countries of research (Cited in Department of Criminology 2009: 8 – 23).

Evaluation research will be conducted to examine the perceptions and practices of the effectiveness of CCTV system in the reduction of crime in urban developing societies by applying scientific procedures to the research design. The evaluation is concerned with ascertaining the ‘merit or worth or value’ of an intervention and developing ‘practical knowledge to aid the decision making process’ used to inform the operation of interventions (Clarke and Dawson, 1999: 3). The evaluations not only establishes whether CCTV system has worked but also examine factors which account for the success or failure of the intervention, and this information can be fed back into the project to improve its operation and outcomes (Cited in Department of Criminology 2009: 8 – 3) .

Researchers can be under pressure to find whether CCTV system is successful as many of the studies on the effectiveness of CCTV have produced contradictory results due to variations in the circumstances of the introduction of CCTV leading to varying effects (Tilley, 1998). Utilizing the scientific realism approach developed by Pawson and Tilley (1997) tried to identify how CCTV works and specifically in what contexts (Tilley 1993, Gill and Spriggs, 2005). Academics (Armitage et al., 1999; Tilley 1993) have documented several ways or mechanisms that could result in CCTV bringing about change in an area and those devised by Tilley (1993, quoted in Gill and Spriggs, 2005)

Problem-solving research aspect to identify a unique CCTV system that can be applicable to the reduction of the escalating street crime, fear of crime and antisocial behavior in Port of Spain Trinidad and Tobago.

Anticipated problems (to generate more problems)

There is much information available on CCTV system and this poses particularly serious problems for potential researchers. Therefore, the researcher with advance knowledge and proper planning will retrieve the information necessary and not compromise the validity by data fishing.

The problem when conducting Internet research, the researcher should be aware of the boundaries between the public and the private spaces, and also any legal and cultural differences across jurisdictions. The researcher identified the boundaries as the research focus on the public space where street crime is the main problem.

The research concluded that for CCTV to be effective it needs to be implemented with a clear strategy that takes into account local crime problems and identifies the mechanism by which the system will address the problems. With this in mind the researcher drew information from security assessment providing crime spot areas that can address cameras installation usefulness.

There are limited evaluations conducted on the effectiveness of closed circuit television, however, there are enough information on implementation and management of CCTV as a street crime reduction strategy since it has been instituted two decade ago the limited research information was utilized for this research to be conducted successfully. The available research data and information was extracted from internet web sites, online databases and from Leicester university blackboard using the keywords for example effectiveness CCTV, research CCTV, Crime and CCTV, Situational Crime Prevention and CCTV reducing crime. Crime patterns across areas are not stable and can change as a result of a countless of actors including changes to policing, types of offenders, seasonal variations and changes in the makeup of areas. The security assessment will identify that CCTV should be adaptable and ultimately install in emerging crime hot-spots.

Many of the researcher’s problems were incurred in retrieving the research information on the up-to-date quasi experimental evaluation on the effectiveness of CCTV, whereby researchers encounter hindrance to access that data and the main contributor id cost, many up to date information on crime before and after the installation of CCTV via Emails, journal, EBooks or meetings has a price, therefore before attempting the study the researcher received assistance from different sponsors so that reliable information can be available for the research..

CCTV system cannot work by itself, there are supporting aspect that is needed for the system to generate success, such as response personnel (law enforcement) to apprehend offenders, operator to relay the information on the monitors to guide the response team and maintenance team to provide that service that the cameras will be constantly working


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