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Practice Profile

Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) Surveillance

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:

Promising - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Multiple crime/offense types
Promising - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Property offenses
Promising - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Vehicle crime
No Effects - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Violent offenses

Practice Description

Practice Goals/Components
Closed circuit television (CCTV) surveillance is a form of situational crime prevention designed to prevent both personal and property crime and can be used in place of, or in addition to, police. Public surveillance cameras monitor, record, and transmit images of a specific area of interest and are either monitored remotely by security personnel or preprogramed to scan the specified area (La Vigne et al. 2011). It is believed that the increased surveillance provided by CCTV will reduce crime and increase arrest, without displacing crime to other nearby areas where CCTV is not in use (Ratcliffe 2009).

Target Areas
CCTV cameras are placed in areas where they are thought to be most effective, which typically includes highly populated towns, city centers, car parks, or various other high-crime areas (Welsh and Farrington 2008). Given that the placement of these cameras is very important, the crime patterns in areas of interest are typically studied for periods of time to identify crime hotspots where cameras could potentially be placed. In numerous cases, Geographic Information Systems technology is used to precisely evaluate crime patterns for camera placement; however, the placement of cameras can also be the result of input from police officers and other criminal justice stakeholders (La Vigne et al. 2011).

Practice Theory
CCTV surveillance is grounded in the criminology theory that suggests potential offenders are less likely to commit crime if they believe they are being watched or have a greater risk of being apprehended. This is also known as the rational choice theory (La Vigne et al. 2011). CCTV is also grounded in situational crime prevention strategy, which argues that opportunities to offend can be reduced by altering a variety of mechanisms such as increasing the risk of an offender being apprehended, increasing the effort to commit the crime, decreasing rewards from crime commission, and reducing provocations that give rise to criminal opportunities (La Vigne et al. 2011). This means that the offender must be aware of the added surveillance for it to achieve its desired effect.

Further, proponents of public surveillance systems also believe that such systems have the ability to increase perceptions of safety among citizens, as well as encourage citizens to use public spaces they know are guarded by surveillance (La Vigne et al. 2011). Through increasing the number of citizens using public spaces, more individuals can potentially serve as witnesses to crimes, presenting the possibility of greater crime reduction.

As described by Cornish and Clarke (2003), CCTV is a form of “formal surveillance,” meaning that not only does CCTV have the ability to take the place of police or security officers but CCTV can also enhance officers’ capabilities (Welsh and Farrington 2008). In addition to functioning as a deterrent, cameras can alert police of crimes as they happen, which can enable officers to respond quickly and efficiently (La Vigne et al. 2011).  On a larger scale, the use of CCTV also presents the possibility of aiding in the criminal justice system, as video footage of a crime may help in investigations and prosecutions (La Vigne et al. 2011).

Meta-Analysis Outcomes

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Promising - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Multiple crime/offense types
Across 76 studies, Piza and colleagues (2019) found that closed circuit television (CCTV) surveillance had a statistically significant impact on overall crime (OR = 1.14). This means that the odds of overall crime occurring in the treatment areas with CCTV were decreased by 14 percent compared to the control areas that had no surveillance.
Promising - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Property offenses
Across 22 studies, Piza and colleagues (2019) found that CCTV was associated with a statistically significant reduction in property offense (OR = 1.16). This means that the odds of property offenses occurring in the treatment areas with CCTV were decreased by 16 percent, compared with control areas.
Promising - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Vehicle crime
Across 23 studies, Piza and colleagues (2019) found that CCTV was associated with a statistically significant reduction in vehicle crime (OR = 1.16). This means that the odds of vehicle crime occurring in treatment areas with CCTV were decreased by 16 percent, compared with control areas.
No Effects - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Violent offenses
Across 29 studies, Piza and colleagues (2019) found that CCTV had no statistically significant effect on violent offenses.
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Meta-Analysis Methodology

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Meta-Analysis Snapshot
 Literature Coverage DatesNumber of StudiesNumber of Study Participants
Meta-Analysis 11978 - 2017760

Meta-Analysis 1
Piza and colleagues (2019) conducted a new review of the literature to update a meta-analysis by Welsh and Farrington (2008) that looked at the effects of closed-circuit television (CCTV) surveillance on crime prevention. The researchers searched for CCTV evaluations published between 2007 and 2017 to account for the period since the last review (which covered evaluations completed in 2006 and earlier). Strategies included searches of electronic bibliographic databases, manual searches of CCTV evaluation study bibliographies, forward searches of CCTV evaluations, and contacting leading researchers to inquire about forthcoming evaluations. Both published and unpublished reports were included in the search, which was not limited to the English language and was international in scope.

Studies were eligible for inclusion if they met the following four criteria: 1) CCTV was the main focus of the intervention; 2) the evaluation used an outcome measure of crime; 3) the research design involved, at minimum, before-and-after measures of crime in treatment and comparable control areas; and 4) both the treatment and control areas experienced at least 20 crimes during the pre-intervention period.

Thirty-six studies met the inclusion criteria. In addition to those included in the previous review, the new review included a total of 80 evaluations. Of the 80 evaluations, 76 provided the requisite data to be included in the meta-analysis. Of these, 34 were published, and 42 were unpublished. Thirty-four of the studies were conducted in the United Kingdom, 26 in the United States, six in Canada, three in South Korea, four in Sweden, and five in other countries. Evaluation settings also varied, with 33 in city/town centers, 16 in residential areas, 10 in housing complexes, eight in car parks, four in public transport, and five in other areas.

The researchers used odds ratios as measures of the effect sizes and pooled effect sizes across evaluations. Random effects models were then used to examine the impact of CCTV on overall crime, property offenses, vehicle offenses, and violent offenses.
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There is no cost information available for this practice.
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Other Information

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This practice review has been updated to reflect findings from a more recent meta-analysis. In 2014, the practice was rated Promising for reducing overall crime and property offenses (i.e., vehicle crimes) but rated No Effects for impacting violent crime based on a review of a meta-analysis by Welsh and Farrington (2008). In 2019, an updated version of the original meta-analysis (Piza et al. 2019) was reviewed. Based on information from the updated meta-analysis, the practice retains the rating of Promising for reducing overall crime, property crime, and vehicle crime, and No Effects for impacting violent crime.

Piza and colleagues (2019) conducted subgroup analyses on the effect of CCTV by setting and type of monitoring. In car parks, there was a statistically significant 37-percent reduction of crime in treatment areas, compared with control areas. Residential treatment areas experienced a statistically significant 12-percent reduction of crime, compared with control areas. However, there were no statistically significant crime reductions found for housing, city/town centers, public transport, and other areas. In addition, the researchers categorized the monitoring style of the CCTV interventions as either active or passive. Active CCTV systems alert police or security officials to potential crime as it takes place, whereas passive systems simply record crime. Active monitoring was associated with a statistically significant reduction in crime; however, passive monitoring showed nonsignificant effects on crime.
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Evidence-Base (Meta-Analyses Reviewed)

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These sources were used in the development of the practice profile:

Meta-Analysis 1
Piza, Eric L., Brandon C. Welsh, David P. Farrington, and Amanda L. Thomas. 2019. “CCTV Surveillance for Crime Prevention: A 40-Year Systematic Review with Meta-Analysis.” Criminology and Public Policy 18(1):134–59.
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Additional References

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These sources were used in the development of the practice profile:

Cornish, Derek B. and Ronald V. Clarke. 2003. “Opportunities, Precipitators, and Criminal Decisions: A Reply to Wortley’s Critique of Situational Crime Prevention.” In Martha J. Smith and Derek B. Cornish (eds.). Theory for Practice in Situational Crime Prevention. Crime Prevention Studies, Vol. 16. Monsey, N.Y.: Criminal Justice Press, 41–96.

La Vigne, Nancy G., Samantha S. Lowry, Joshua A. Markman, Allison M. Dwyer. 2011. Evaluating the Use of Public Surveillance Cameras for Crime Control and Prevention. Washington, D.C.: Urban Institute, Justice Policy Center.

Ratcliffe, Jerry H., Travis Taniguchi, and Ralph B. Taylor. 2009. “The Crime-Reduction Effects of Public CCTV Cameras: A Multi-Method Spatial Approach.” Justice Quarterly 26(4):46–70.

Welsh, Brandon C., and David P. Farrington. 2008. “Effects of Closed Circuit Television Surveillance on Crime.” Campbell Systematic Reviews 4(1):1–73.

Welsh, Brandon C., Eric L. Piza, Amanda L. Thomas, and David P. Farrington. 2019. “Private Security and Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) Surveillance: A Systematic Review of Function and Performance.” Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, DOI: 10.1177/1043986219890192
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Related Programs

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Following are programs that are related to this practice:

CCTV in Philadelphia (Pa.) Promising - One study
This program installed closed-circuit television cameras to monitor public space in different locations around the city of Philadelphia, PA. This program is rated Promising. The intervention showed a statistically significant reduction in disorder crime and the number of crime events in the target areas, compared with the control areas. However, no significant differences were found for serious crimes in the target areas, compared with the control areas.

CCTV in Redton, England Promising - One study
The town of Redton, England, installed closed-circuit television cameras in the central commercial district to reduce crime. The program is rated Promising. Using a trend analysis, there was no significant overall crime decrease. However, in analyses of separate types of crime, controlling for trends, the reduction was significant for some types of crime (theft of and from vehicles), but not from others (other theft, shoplifting).

CCTV in Gillingham, England Promising - One study
A program to install closed-circuit television cameras in the town center and adjacent car parks in Gillingham, England. The program is rated Promising. There was a reduction of crime in the treatment area, specifically driven by declines in property crime. However, violent crime increased in the treatment and comparison area. These increases were statistically significant.

CCTV in Southwark, England Promising - One study
A program to install closed circuit television cameras in town centers to reduce crime and fear of crime. The program is rated Promising. The evaluation showed a reduction in crime rates and improved public safety perceptions. With respect to displacement, buffer area reductions either matched or exceeded reductions in the target areas.

CCTV in Five English Cities Promising - One study
Closed circuit television cameras were installed in five English town and city centers to reduce crime. The program is rated Promising. Visits to emergency departments for assault-related injuries decreased. Although police-recorded violence increased in both the intervention and control sites, it increased more in the intervention sites than the control sites--a variation across sites and not statistically significant.

Public Surveillance Cameras (Baltimore, Maryland) Promising - One study
Public surveillance systems include a network of cameras and components for monitoring, recording, and transmitting video images. The ultimate goal of installing public surveillance cameras throughout the city was to reduce the historically high levels of crime. The program is rated Promising. Three of the four selected areas in Baltimore, Md., experienced significant declines in crime rates.

Schenectady Public Surveillance Project Promising - One study
A crime prevention program seeking to impact crime and disorder through the installation of public surveillance cameras in one medium-sized city in the northeastern United States. The program is rated Promising. The installation of cameras led to significant reductions in total crime and total disorder in the target area. However, no significant impact was found on violent crime or property crime.

Police-Monitored CCTV Cameras in Newark, N.J. No Effects - One study
This program is designed to deter street-level crime in Newark using closed-circuit cameras, hard-wired to physical structures, which are monitored in real time by CCTV operators. The program is rated No Effects. Results from one study showed no statistically significant differences in shootings, auto thefts, or thefts from autos. Results from a second study showed a statistically significant decrease in auto thefts but no statically significant difference in shootings or thefts from auto.
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Practice Snapshot

Settings: High Crime Neighborhoods/Hot Spots, Other Community Setting

Practice Type: Community and Problem Oriented Policing, Community Awareness/Mobilization, Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design/Design Against Crime, General deterrence, Situational Crime Prevention, Specific deterrence

Unit of Analysis: Places