Surveillance Cameras Don’t Reduce Violent Crime

Saturday, January 17, 2009

A recent study of surveillance cameras in San Francisco found that cameras in public places led to a significant decrease in pickpocketing, purse snatchings, and theft from automobiles and buildings. However, the cameras appear to have little noticeable effect in limiting violent crime, drug offenses, prostitution, vandalism or crimes in non-public areas. Police investigators complained that the poor image quality limited the use of footage from the cameras primarily to establishing a sequence of events and placing a witness at a scene rather than as a ”silent witness” that can stand in for human witnesses.

Under the Watchful Eye: The Proliferation of Video Surveillance Systems in California (by Mark Schlosberg and Nicole A. Ozer, California ACLU Affiliates) (PDF)
The San Francisco Community Safety Camera Program: An evaluation of the Effectiveness of San Francisco’s Community Safety Cameras (University of California, Berkeley Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society [CITRIS]) (PDF)


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