In an age when video surveillance technology is commonplace in every household, bank, police station and public space throughout America – and in a time when terrorist attacks are so commonplace citizens fear for their lives whenever they attend a big event – it makes sense to line the streets with video cameras, doesn’t it? At least, that’s what many city officials and law enforcement agencies believe, as do many U.S. citizens. As of this year, several municipalities have already implemented a system in which video surveillance footage from local businesses and residents goes directly to police station monitors. Others have implemented a system in which thousands of public cameras are installed out in the open and monitored by police officers in one centralized location. No matter what the setup looks like though, residents are left wondering: how much surveillance is too much surveillance?
Should Surveillance Cameras Be Put Up in Public?
The truth is that people are worried. They are worried about their children when they go to school. They are worried about what might happen to them when they walk into a movie theater. They are worried that when they board their plane, a terrorist might attack. There is an ever-pervasive fear in our society which is relatively new, and which arose when school shootings became more common and terrorist attacks something that could happen to you. As a result, leaders across the nation have been wondering what they can do to prevent future acts of terrorism. For many, the answer is surveillance. But while many people are on board with public security cameras, just as many are not.
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons below:
Pros of Video Surveillance in Public
Improve Public Safety
There is no denying the fact that security cameras boost public safety. Think about it in terms of installing a security system in your home—once it’s there, you automatically feel safer. This is due to one main reason: most criminals won’t commit a crime where they know someone is watching them. As more criminals become aware of public surveillance systems, they will be less apt to commit crimes in public. This helps you—the innocent bystander—stay safe while you go shopping, banking, clubbing or perform any other routine business in a public space. If a crime does happen, it will be caught on camera and sent directly to the police station, where officers will be viewing the footage as it happens. They can then respond quicker, and hopefully catch the criminal—and put an end to the crime—before it gets out of hand.
Additionally, many crimes can be deterred entirely if a person monitoring footage notices suspicious activity in the cameras. For instance, if a suspicious individual is seen scoping out an area or if a skeptical item is left out in a public space, the proper authorities can be contacted to move into the area before any damage is done or a crime has been committed. People in these areas can be cleared as a precaution.
One camera that can exponentially help with this type of public surveillance is the panoramic fisheye security camera, as it does an excellent job of providing a seamless 360-degree view.
Reduce Crime Rates
In addition to increasing public safety, public surveillance cameras can also help to reduce crime rates. Many law enforcement agencies have begun to place surveillance cameras in retail locations such as Wal-Mart and other shopping centers in the hopes of deterring criminals. Despite what you may have read in other sources, statistics have shown that surveillance systems do reduce crime rates. This is because if an individual knows that a camera is watching them, they are less apt to do something illegal for fear of being caught.
Cities that have fully integrated their surveillance systems with the police departments cite the following results:
- East Orange, NJ: A 50 percent reduction in crime in the three years following the implementation of a fully integrated system of listening devices and surveillance cameras. Murders declined by two-thirds, while rapes dropped by nearly a third of their pre-system rates. Robbery rates decreased by half. Criminal activity in public housing projects decreased by 35 percent.
- Baltimore, MD: A 17 percent reduction in crime rates the very year the police department implemented an integrated network of security cameras and other devices. The city has saved $1.50 USD for ever $1 USD spent on the system.
- Philadelphia, PA: A 37 percent drop in criminal activity after crime cameras were installed.
Catch the Bad Guys
If a crime is committed in an area patrolled by surveillance cameras, the chances of the criminal getting away with it are slim. Most cameras today are fully equipped with facial recognition software. If a person is already in the legal system, all it will take is a quick scan of the perpetrator’s features to find a match. Even if a person is not in the system, images from camera’s footage can be used to create posters and for media purposes. No longer do police officers have to rely on drawings and shaky descriptions to catch the bad guy—they can simply use a real-life photograph as all the lead they need.
In addition to catching criminals in the act, video cameras serve to help the prosecution when criminals try to fight the charges. Today’s surveillance cameras record high quality footage that can be used as undeniable evidence. This is even the case for footage captured at night, thanks to the night vision feature on most modern day surveillance cameras.
Cons of Video Surveillance in Public
A lot of citizens are genuinely concerned about their every move being monitored by the government. From dining with friends to running through the park, there will be no aspect of a person’s life that goes unrecorded—or, at least that’s how it feels to many. Aspects of their lives that they wished to remain private—from socializing to shopping—will not be privy to review if authorities see fit to do so.
Concerns Over Effectiveness
Despite statistics proving that surveillance systems are highly effective tools for reducing crime rates, many people still have trouble believing that public security cameras work. However, like with most technology, there are limitations. For instance, a suicide bomber is not likely to be deterred because there are security cameras watching him or her.
Potential for Abuse
Again, as with all technology, there is the risk for abuse with public security systems. Law enforcement may take it upon themselves to eavesdrop on seemingly innocent conversations. City officials may use footage as blackmail. Women may be spied on by voyeuristic individuals. Unfortunately, there is no viable way to control or limit who sees what footage, making abuse possibly the biggest problem with city wide surveillance.
A good security camera system is not cheap. Cities are looking to spend in the millions to have a city-wide system installed, and even more to maintain it. However, as Baltimore proved, cities could end up saving money in the long run due to the reduction in criminal activity.
Mammoth Security Believes Public Surveillance Can Help
Yes, there are privacy and abuse concerns with public security cameras, but in today’s turbulent world, surveillance cameras have the potential to do much more good than bad. If public surveillance systems were the norm, incidences like the Boston Marathon bombing, the Orlando nightclub shooting, the Sandy Hook shooting or the Colorado movie theater shooting may have been prevented. The city of Danbury isn’t talking about installing cameras to “keep an eye on you”—they’re talking about placing cameras strategically throughout the city to ensure public safety, protect property, prevent crime and catch the bad guys. Will the city need to figure out how to balance public safety with personal privacy needs? Absolutely! But, again, that’s par for the course with just about any technology in use today.
At Mammoth Security, we believe that the advantages of public surveillance systems installation in Danbury far outweigh the disadvantages. Crime rates are on the rise, and cities need to figure out an effective way to bring them down. Public surveillance can go a long way towards making that happen.
As a final note, we feel it’s important to mention that privacy shouldn’t be a concern for those who always behave themselves in public. If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to worry about!
What are your thoughts on public surveillance? Are you for or against it? Share your thoughts with us below!