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Surveillance Camera Systems: Are They Really Preventing Crime?

On Behalf of | Apr 21, 2015 | Criminal Law

Video surveillance systems are popping up all over the United States.  Law enforcement has taken an aggressive approach by employing dozens, if not hundreds, of surveillance cameras in cities and towns.  A few major justifications for employing the technology include that (1) police can respond to crime quickly by observing criminal behavior in real time, and (2) the cameras prevent crime simply through their presence.  Despite these efforts, evidence from academic literature derived based on years of study indicates that video surveillance systems do not have a significant impact on crime in the United States.  To boot, multiple studies in the United Kingdom reveal that there is no statistical information to support cameras having a significant impact on crime./p>

Syracuse Cameras

A recent news article offers a map of police video surveillance cameras throughout the city. The camera network is called the “Criminal Observation and Protection System” (COPS). According to the article, by the end of summer 2014, the Syracuse Police Department is expected to have at least 60 cameras up and running. Locations of the cameras include:

  • Ten in the downtown business district;
  • Nine on the East Side, with a concentration along East Fayette Street between Columbus Avenue and Croly Street; and
  • Two are planned to be placed near Beauchamp Library at South Salina and Colvin streets.

Syracuse Police Department explains on their website that the COPS program is “designed and implemented to help protect the citizens of Syracuse by preventing crime and aiding in the investigation and prosecution of any crime that occurs in the pilot area.” In contrast to the academic literature referenced above, the website goes on to say “cameras of this nature have a deterrent effect on overall criminal disorder and undoubtedly aid in the investigation and prosecution of criminal behavior.”

Police Chief of Lincoln Nebraska: “Surveillance Cameras Don’t Help Fight Crime”

The police chief of Lincoln, Nebraska announced that security cameras watching over the city’s downtown bar scene have not proven to be effective in reducing criminal activity, as reported by the ACLU’s Sonia Roubini. Chief Peschong stated that cameras did not reduce crime in their vicinity – with statistics showing 128 assaults within 500 feet of cameras last year – holding consistent to the five-year average.

Roubini acknowledges two important features of the police chief’s announcement. One is that there is a trend of government officials conceding the ineffectiveness of some surveillance programs. The other is the fact that Lincoln’s police department reviews and audits the performance of their surveillance mechanisms. Without a periodic review to assess the effectiveness and economic return of surveillance programs, it becomes difficult to justify their implementation and operation.

There is no doubt that the surveillance state has crept upon us in many forms, including police surveillance cameras, cell phone trackers, drones, and internet surveillance. If you have been accused of a crime whether it was through the use of police surveillance cameras or not, it is imperative that you have an experienced criminal defense attorney who can evaluate the facts of your case, and ensure your rights are preserved to their maximum potential. Contact George Hildebrandt for a confidential meeting today.