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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
No Effects - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Violent offenses

Practice Description

Practice Goals/Components
As a form of situational crime prevention, closed circuit television (CCTV) surveillance seeks 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
Welsh and Farrington (2008) found that closed circuit television (CCTV) had a significant, though modest, impact on crime. Through aggregating the results of 41 studies, the authors found an overall effect size of 1.19, meaning that CCTV was associated with a 16 percent reduction in overall crime.
Promising - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Property offenses
Welsh and Farrington (2008) aggregated the results from 22 studies that examined the impact of CCTV on vehicle crimes and found a significant effect size of 1.35. This indicates that CCTV reduced vehicle crimes by 26 percent.
No Effects - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Violent offenses
Welsh and Farrington (2008) examined the impact of CCTV on violent crime reported in 23 studies and found a nonsignificant effect size of 1.03. Overall, this indicates that CCTV does not have an impact on violent crimes.
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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 - 2007410

Meta-Analysis 1
Welsh and Farrington (2008) reviewed studies on public surveillance and closed circuit television (CCTV) completed in 2006 and earlier. The researchers searched electronic bibliographic databases, literature reviews on the effectiveness of CCTV in impacting crime, and bibliographies of CCTV studies, and they contacted leading researchers. Both published and unpublished reports were included in the search, which was not limited to the English language and was international in scope.

All studies included had to have a reasonably comparable control area and report on crime rates before and after the installation of public surveillance cameras. Having a reasonably comparable control area meant that the control areas might not have been comparable on all important measures but that enough information was provided for the study authors to conclude that the areas were somewhat comparable.

The search yielded 94 evaluations, of which 41 were included in the meta-analysis. Twenty studies took place in city and town centers, eight in public housing areas, four in public transport areas, two in residential areas, six in car parks, and one in a hospital.

The “relative effect size” (which can be interpreted as an incident rate ratio) was used to measure effect size. A random effects model was used to examine the impact of CCTV on overall crime and property crime, while a fixed-effects model was used to examine the impact on violent crime.

A moderator analysis was conducted to compare the effect sizes across different settings (car parks, city and town centers, public housing, and public transport), between different crime types (vehicle crime and violence crime), and across different countries.
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There is no cost information available for this practice.
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Other Information

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Welsh and Farrington (2008) conducted additional tests in the meta-analysis (called moderator analyses) to see whether any factors strengthened the likelihood that CCTV improved outcomes. The authors looked at whether CCTV was more effective in particular settings (city and town centers, public housing, public transport, or car parks), whether it was more effective at reducing certain types of crime (property and violent crimes), and whether there was a greater impact in certain countries (for example, the United Kingdom, the United States). In terms of setting, CCTV was found to be more effective in reducing crime in car parks than the other settings. Further, in terms of crime type, CCTV was found to be more effective at reducing vehicle crimes than property crimes. Finally, CCTV had a greater crime reduction impact in the United Kingdom than in any other country investigated.
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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
Welsh, Brandon C. and David P. Farrington. 2008. Effects of Closed Circuit Television on Crime. The Campbell Collaboration.
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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.
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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.

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