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Program Profile: CCTV in Southwark, England

Evidence Rating: Promising - One study Promising - One study

Date: This profile was posted on June 14, 2011

Program Summary

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.

Program Description

Program Goals

The CCTV (closed circuit television) in Southwark program primarily aims to reduce crime, including burglary, auto crime, robbery, sexual assault, theft, and vandalism. Secondary aims of the program include reducing fear and improving public/business perceptions of the area.


Target Sites

Four areas were selected for camera installation in the Southwark Borough of London, England, to address local problems.


Program Components

Although the process varied slightly across sites, the local government authority usually partnered with the police and local businesses to decide on the installation of cameras. The costs for installation have generally been split among various combinations of the local governmental council, local commercial interests, and the Home Office (United Kingdom). Maintenance of the system usually is supported by commercial interests and the local council.


The cameras were installed so that they would be clearly visible, to attain their maximum deterrence effect; also, the degree of coverage was considered. The number of cameras installed and their location varied across sites.


  • Elephant and Castle has a large shopping center surrounded by arterial roads; it has a high density of transport links. A local community committee determined that camera surveillance would contribute to its attempts to reduce crime and fear of crime. Thirty-four cameras were installed in 1997, with an additional 15 in the shopping center. Six of the external and 12 internal cameras are pan-tilt-and-zoom (PTZ) models.
  • Peckham installed CCTV in 1995 to address the area’s development into a hotspot for street robberies and drug dealing. Fourteen PTZ cameras were installed that supplemented the 27 static cameras in the Cerise Road car park. Cameras are monitored 24 hours a day. They are in a predominantly commercial area.
  • Camberwell installed 17 PTZ cameras in the town center in January 1998 to address high levels of street crime. They cover the main arterial routes running through the heart of the commercial area and provide surveillance to about 250 commercial premises and 5,000 square meters of pedestrian routes.
  • East Street, the site of one of London’s oldest street markets, installed 11 PTZ cameras and 1 fixed camera to help address recent increases in crime levels. It covered about a third of a mile, and included several car parks.

Each area’s control room is governed by a common CCTV code of practice that covers:


  • Installation of CCTV
  • Tape management
  • Maintenance of an incident log book
  • Procedures for the police
  • Control room management
  • Provision of stills
  • Monitoring and review of the code of practice

While there may be a common code of practice, control rooms can be operated in different ways. For instance, for the Elephant and Castle site, the control room is located at the shopping center in an area that also functions as the reception area for delivery vehicles. The other areas are monitored from one control room, with three controllers on duty at any time, 24 hours a day.


Police can visit the sites to retrieve tapes for viewing, but sometimes operators view tapes for police. The relationship between the operators and police can vary as well. Some sites have a very proactive relationship between the two. In Elephant and Castle, the police share information with the operators and provide pictures of 10 individuals believed to be currently committing offenses. In the other sites, little intelligence information is shared by the police.


The different environments can affect how the cameras are used and how effective they are. For instance, for the Elephant and Castles site, operators are often notified of suspicious activities by the shopping center floor security guards and can then concentrate on the individuals in question. Problems with images from the Camberwell cameras resulted in part from areas of low lighting. There have also been numerous equipment failures at some of the sites.

Evaluation Outcomes

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Study 1
General Crime
Sarno, Hough, and Bulos (1999) found a 10 percent to 12 percent reduction in crime rates in the year following installation compared with pre–CCTV (closed circuit television) levels. Elephant and Castle experienced an 11 percent decline in the first year after installation and a 17 percent decline in crime in the second year, compared with pre–CCTV crime rates. Street crime decreased sharply in the Peckham site in the 2 years following installation. Camberwell experienced a 12 percent decline in the year after CCTV installation. East Street experienced a 10 percent general crime decline in the year following installation. In general, the crimes most affected were burglary, criminal damage, street crime, and vehicle crime. Street crime (in particular, robberies) decreased significantly. The authors were unable to exclude the possibility that these reductions were part of an overall downward trend in crime rates.

Public Safety Perceptions
Fifty-five percent of the public thought crime was reduced; 66 percent of business operators thought crime was down. In all sites, most people (between 53 percent and 69 percent) felt safer post–CCTV installation, though fewer than half felt safe after dark.

The buffer area reductions either matched or exceeded reductions in the target areas.

Additional Qualitative Information
"Lessons learned" identified included: the need to pay attention to the reliability of the equipment, the rather low detection of crime using cameras, and the limited formal training provided to the CCTV controllers about what to look for or what constituted suspicious behavior. In general, public and local business owners’ perceptions of CCTV installation were positive.
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Evaluation Methodology

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Study 1

Sarno, Hough, and Bulos (1999) used a time-series design to assess the impact of closed circuit television (CCTV) on crime rates and fear of crime. There were four target areas (areas under direct surveillance within 200 meters of each camera), multiple buffer zones around target areas (based on surrounding police beats), and comparison groups for each target area (the borough as a whole). It was unclear whether the treatment, buffer, and comparison groups were equivalent, since the buffer and comparison areas were selected based on police beats rather than some other substantive criteria.


A range of quantitative and qualitative information was collected between from 1998 through May 1999:


  • Monthly data from February 1996 to January 1999 on recorded crime and disorder from the Crime Recording Information System, which contained crime allegation data, and the Control and Despatch (sic) Management Information System, which contained crime disorder data. Crimes unlikely to be affected by CCTV were excluded. Data was categorized as burglary, all vehicle crime, street crime, sex/violence, theft, and vandalism.
  • Data from system logbooks and repair invoices from June to September 1998. Data was collected on number of tapes viewed by police, number of times the police took control of the cameras and for what duration, and number of equipment failures.
  • Interviews with the police and CCTV operators.
  • A postimplementation survey of 200–227 town center users in each of the four sites.
  • A postimplementation survey of 25–44 local businesses in each of the four sites. Samples of businesses and individuals for the surveys were based on a quota method.

Preimplementation and postimplementation figures were available for all but one area. The follow-up period varied by site: Elephant and Castle (36 months); Camberwell (36 months); East Street (36 months); and Peckham (36 to 48 depending on data source). Each time series included at least 36 observations. However, depending on a site’s date of CCTV installation, the number of pre/post observations varied by site.


The authors note that crime rates were already declining. Other activities may have contributed to the decline in crime found through the analysis, including the Met-wide Operation Eagle Eye, which was an effort to better address street robberies, and the regeneration efforts of Peckham town center and the “five estates” area, which led to changes in the town center layout and the relocation of certain cameras.

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Sarno, Hough, and Bulos (1999) looked at the costs of and potential savings from the program. They calculated the annual costs, including capital costs and maintenance/operating expenditures, at £280,000 for the area. If 70 crimes were prevented each year at each site, the cost per recorded crime prevented would be £1,000. They do not include estimates of the savings to victims and government per crime, and thus whether there are overall savings owing to the project, but they do compare the costs of the project per crime prevented with the costs of using other methods. The costs for these other methods ranged from £2,000 to £4,000 per crime prevented.
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Evidence-Base (Studies Reviewed)

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

Study 1
Sarno, Chris, Michael Hough, and Marjorie Bulos. 1999. Developing a Picture of CCTV in Southwark Town Centres: Final Report. London, England: South Bank University.
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Related Practices

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Following are practices that are related to this program:

Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) Surveillance
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 is to reduce both property and personal crime. The practice was rated Promising for reducing overall crime and property offenses (i.e. vehicle crimes), but rated No Effects on impacting violent crime.

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
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Program Snapshot

Gender: Both

Geography: Suburban, Urban

Setting (Delivery): Other Community Setting

Program Type: Community Awareness/Mobilization, Community Crime Prevention , Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design/Design Against Crime, Situational Crime Prevention, General deterrence

Current Program Status: Active