Public Area CCTV and Crime Prevention
Surveillance cameras are meant to increase security, but judging their effectiveness can be difficult: They might promote a false sense of security, and cause citizens to take fewer precautions. It could also cause more crimes to be reported, and thus lead to a perceived increase in crime.
A 2009 analysis by Northeastern University and the University of Cambridge, “Public Area CCTV and Crime Prevention: An Updated Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis,” looks at 93 studies on surveillance systems to see how effective they are at reducing crime.
Of the studies identified, 44 were deemed to be sufficiently rigorous for inclusion. Many of the studies were based in the United Kingdom, which has more than 4 million cameras installed, but others were in U.S. cities such as Cincinnati and New York.
The results of the meta-analysis were as follows:
- Surveillance systems were most effective in parking lots, where their use resulted in a 51% decrease in crime.
- Public transportation areas saw a 23% decrease in crimes.
- Systems in public settings were the least effective, with just a 7% decrease in crimes overall. When sorted by country, however, systems in the United Kingdom accounted for the majority of the decrease; the drop in other countries was insignificant.
The study concluded that while surveillance cameras can be effective in specific contexts such as parking lots and public-transit systems, the potential financial and societal costs require greater research.
Tags: crime, metastudy, municipal, technology
Read the issue-related New York Times article titled "Security Test for M.T.A.: Cameras on a Train."
- If you were to rewrite the article based on knowledge of the study, what key changes would you make?
Read the full Northeastern University and the University of Cambridge study titled "Public Area CCTV and Crime Prevention: An Updated Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis."
- Summarize the study in fewer than 40 words.
- Express the study's key term(s) in language a lay audience can understand.
- Evaluate the study's limitations. (For example: Do the results conflict with those of other reliable studies? Are there weaknesses in the study's data or research design?)
- Write a lead (or headline or nut graph) based on the study.
- Spend 60 minutes exploring the issue by accessing sources of information other than the study. Write a lead (or headline or nut graph) based on the study but informed by the new information. Does the new information significantly change what one would write based on the study alone?
- Interview two sources with a stake in or knowledge of the issue. Be prepared to provide them with a short summary of the study in order to get their response to it. Write a 400-word article about the study incorporating material from the interviews.
- Spend additional time exploring the issue and then write a 1,200-word background article, focusing on major aspects of the issue.