cctv, the public safety placebo.

Do more CCTV cameras in public places increase public safety and protect the community from violent nutcases?

Let’s check with our friends in the U.K., which is operating 20% of the world’s public safety CCTV cameras. (Evidence says: Definitely not in this case.)

CCTV cameras don’t prevent crimes, people.  They may make it easier to identify the bad guys after the fact, but there’s no way to monitor all of those cameras 24/7 and dispatch a cop to the scene instantly if the monitor shows a crime in progress.  They’re not there to make people safer, they’re to make the post-crime work of the police easier, and to give the illusion of safety.  Sure, you’re more likely to catch the perpetrator if he was unwise or reckless enough to show his face on camera…but that’s a small consolation if you’re the victim.  When you back up those CCTV cameras with a justice system more concerned with protecting the perp than the victim, they’re actually worse than useless, because then their only raison d’etre is to give the politcritters something to point at and say, “See? We’re doing something!”


9 thoughts on “cctv, the public safety placebo.

  1. Al Terego says:

    “…their only raison d’etre is to give the politcritters something to point at and say, “See? We’re doing something!””

    If only.

    My view (heh) is that the proliferation of video in public places and its storage, manipulation, and use, will come to make the invasion of privacy in airports seem benign in comparison.


  2. And then there’s that nice big juicy contract that you can milk for campaign donations, free meals, entertainment and gifts. Then you get to give your Bro-in-Law a job in the monitoring room, with civil service benefits!

  3. Kristopher says:

    CCTV are great for controlling honest people. Not so good at dealing with predators.

    But that’s OK … predators cause honest people to give their masters more control, and said masters have guards for protection.

  4. Ruth says:

    They’re making a big fuss about putting them in a section of the city here, about how people want them because they’ll make everyone safer. At one point I swore at the TV and turned to my husband and demanded to know how h*ll tracking down my killer after the fact because they caught his face on camera makes the streets safer for me?? He told me to ask the mayor that next time I saw her…..

  5. Kristopher says:

    Being able to track down feral citizens after the fact makes the Mayor safer.

    It’s kinda hard on the honest citizens used as bait, however.

  6. Montie says:

    Having some experience with public safety CCTV in the law enforcement context, I agree with you 100% as to their value. I can only recall one recent instance where they has some actual value in stopping or preventing a crime recently and that was a privately owned system in a local liquor store that the owner monitored from home he saw a burglary going down and called it in time for us to get the burglar inside the store. Most of the time it simply allows us an easier time in identifying the perp.

  7. MarkHB says:

    Yeah. When I was attacked back in ’08, the cops basically said “There’s no CCTV in that area, we can’t help you”.

    So you can add Cop Complacency to the knock-on sins of those never-to-be-sufficiently-accursed things.

  8. DRB says:

    I live in the UK and have had to plow through CCTV footage for, um, work purposes. The cameras were of such low resolution that I couldn’t even read the lettering on the side of a van leaving a carpark. How on earth would this be useful in identifying a face? I do realise that not all the cameras are of such low resolution though. The town I live close to has quite a lot of these cameras, needless to say I am only in town to get essentials. I hate CCTV and the nanny state.

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