The study by the Winnipeg Police in regards to their 10 cameras and how effective they are comes out in the next month.
There are already many people who are begging for more cameras to be installed believing they will help reduce or prevent crime.
So just how effective are CCTV cameras? Well, according to the studies from Australia and Britain where there are a great deal of these cameras, not as good as one would think.
In 2008, the vast majority of Winnipeggers supported the idea of CCTV. However, there was a significant group within the poll that believed it might not reduce crime.
Respondents agreed strongly most frequently with the perception of effectiveness in catching criminals and holding offenders accountable.
Those same respondents disagreed most frequently with the perception of effectiveness in freeing police officers up to deal with other crime issues.
Interestingly, some are skeptical that CCTV will be effective in preventing crime and reducing serious crime issues. This, coupled with the general level of support for the use of CCTV, implies some level of cautious optimism. Secondary phases of this research should focus on these seemingly contradictory perceptions.
We should know more about how effective the cameras are shortly but here is what the most in depth report from Australia said.
The perceived success of CCTV in relation to controlling crime in Australia is almost totally anecdotal (Goodwin, 2002; Sutherland Shire Council, 2001, 2003; Welsh and Farrington, 2002). While further CCTV implementation continues to occur and state and federal agencies consider additional crime detection and minimisation strategies (Wilson, 2003), there is a critical need to undertake a comprehensive review and research the impact of CCTV on security of public spaces and public transport.
This research questions the general assumption “that surveillance cameras are not only controlled and monitored constantly, but also operated effectively and efficiently” (Smith, 2004, p. 376). It is unrealistic to suggest the installation of cameras will have a major impact on crime rates unless “used as part of a strategy to tackle specific offences” (Gill and Hemming, 2006, p. 36). From our research it appears CCTV is effective at detecting violent crime and/or may result in increased reporting as opposed to preventing any type of crime.
In other words, crime prevention was not happening if not part of an overall strategy that was not dependent on the camera.
The British went further on this in 2008:
Use of CCTV images for court evidence has so far been very poor, according to Detective Chief Inspector Mick Neville, the officer in charge of the Metropolitan police unit. "CCTV was originally seen as a preventative measure," Neville told the Security Document World Conference in London. "Billions of pounds has been spent on kit, but no thought has gone into how the police are going to use the images and how they will be used in court. It's been an utter fiasco: only 3% of crimes were solved by CCTV. There's no fear of CCTV. Why don't people fear it? [They think] the cameras are not working."
So in Winnipeg, before we start running pell mell into installing cameras everywhere, we should look at how they are going to be part of the overall policing strategy for Winnipeg.
Nothing would be worse than installing a very expensive system that did not nothing to really improve the crime prevention and help reduce crime.