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Public space CCTV systems can prevent crime. However, this will generally only be achieved when careful consideration is given to all of the components of the system based on a detailed understanding of crime in the local area. Given the significant investment required to establish and maintain a public space CCTV system, it is therefore essential that adequate planning be undertaken before embarking on this form of crime prevention.

This manual has been compiled to assist local government authorities and other relevant agencies in their deliberations about establishing a public space CCTV system. The steps outlined in this manual should be considered in light of local conditions. Budgetary, political, geographical conditions, existing crime prevention initiatives, organisational capacity and numerous other conditions will greatly influence relevant local decisions.

Beyond the suggestions provided here, the great tradition of sharing ideas and resources between local government authorities ensures that practical insights can be quickly transferred between personnel and agencies. The sharing of Consultant Tender Specifications, Codes of Practice, SOPs and technical system specifications can greatly help in the establishment of new public space CCTV systems.

Finally, it should be remembered that CCTV is not a panacea for crime. Studies have shown increases in crime after installation of public space CCTV systems, minor displacement of crime and a host of problems with monitoring, maintenance and system upgrades. Once installed, systems are rarely removed, necessitating a long-term financial commitment. Many crime prevention outcomes are best achieved through a combination of measures, rather than relying solely on one approach—CCTV is no exception.

Predicting the future

Given the rapid changes in CCTV technology, it is impossible to accurately predict future developments. Some of the current trends suggest that CCTV will become more intelligent, require less human monitoring and be able to better isolate individuals in crowded settings. Systems utilising facial and gait recognition, algorithms that detect abnormal behaviour in public spaces, automatic number plate recognition systems and greater integration of public and private CCTV systems are just some of the emerging trends that will potentially change the landscape of CCTV. Whether these developments will prove effective in preventing crime in public space and whether the technology will prove to be a wise investment for local authorities will be determined in the years to come.

The Australian Customs and Border Protection Service has a CCTV Advisory Service on its website (http://www.customs.gov.au/site/page.cfm?u=5966). It contains detailed information about technological developments which highlights some of the emerging trends in CCTV.

Box 16: Final comments from CCTV headquarters (the United Kingdom)

Rod Cowan suggested that 'despite CCTV's continued popularity, particularly with politicians, serious questions are being raised about its effectiveness in combating crime' (Cowan 2008: 23). Cowan quotes Detective Chief Inspector Mike Neville (head of New Scotland Yard's Visual Images, Identifications and Detections Office)—'[b]illions of pounds have been spent on CCTV kit, but no thought has gone into how the police service is going to use the images and how those same images are utilised in courts' (Cowan 2008: 23). With only three percent of London's street robberies solved using CCTV images, due in part to the quality of images and difficulties accessing images, Neville suggested that significant sums of money was being invested into a CCTV network that was an utter fiasco.

Last updated
3 November 2017