The use of CCTV in public areas, busy roads and complexes (Royal Ascot for example) has been controversial. While many sing the praises of CCTV as a tool for reducing crime, there are just as many critics who don’t see the value proposition.So what is the bottom line – does CCTV in public spaces reduce crime or not?
A professional high grade system such as that used in the CBD and monitored from the SAPS control room is definitely beneficial. It can lead to a reduction in crime because opportunistic criminals know that the police are monitoring and reacting. The same cannot necessarily be said for monitoring by private security companies.A simple CCTV setup in a public area has to be monitored by at least two people rotating every 30 minutes or so.
This means that the manpower requirement is particularly high. Monitoring 24 hours a day 365 days a year gives a total of 8760 monitoring hours requiring two people. I’m sure that you can appreciate the cost of that monitoring alone. Even if the system generates two arrests and convictions (unlikely in most cases) a month, that equates to 365 man hours per arrest. A lot of resource hours need to be dedicated to achieve those arrests. Another downfall is visual clarity. Getting a direct and useable facial image over community area CCTV systems is exceptionally rare. Even the best CCTV camera lenses can be affected by direct light beams from cars at night, sunspots during the day and of course dirt and grime that builds up over time.
The reality is that most CCTV operations are indeed useful as investigative tools after a crime. They can help get a better idea of exactly what happened, the number of persons involved, etc. Practical Ways To Cope With Crime: Does My Neighbourhood Need CCTV Cameras?They can also catch the number plate of a suspect leaving the area of a crime. Unfortunately the number plate could be false and unhelpful in the investigation. CCTV is by no means the ultimate crime-fighting tool. My personal view is that within residential suburbs the money CCTV would cost is much better spent on physical patrols where a broader and more tangible result is achieved.
However, if your neighbourhood has the funds and resources available and sufficient patrolling with no other security expenditure for the area required, CCTV is worth looking into, but with realistic expectations.
Craig Pedersen is the Project Manager of the Milnerton Crime Watch and has over 20 years security experience. The views expressed herein are his personal views and may not be those of the MCWT.