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Step 5: Accurately estimating costs

Accurately estimating the costs of establishing and running a public space CCTV system will be central to whether an organisation will commit to such an initiative.

A thorough analysis of the costs associated with public space CCTV systems was undertaken by Wilson and Sutton in 2003. Their comparative analysis of systems across Australia reveals indicative costs for establishing and running a public space CCTV system.

Installation costs

Table 3 reveals the estimated installation costs of major public space systems across Australia. Many of these costs are quite dated and were for the establishment of small systems (ie only a few cameras). While many system component costs have fallen as the technology has improved, it is also true that many of these systems have expanded since commencement. Consequently, a larger and newer system would be likely to have greater initial costs than those listed below.

Capital works: can you afford them?

The cost of capital works (eg installing poles, digging up pavements to lay conduit etc) was widely recognised among Safer Suburbs grants program case study sites as something to keep in mind. These can cost thousands of dollars, so it is important to recognise and estimate these costs prior to installing a CCTV system.

Box 11: Expert insights 2

In your experience, what are some of the ongoing costs of running a public space CCTV network?

There are two ongoing costs that a council should consider. The first is the cost of ongoing monitoring, which can be a substantial outlay—particularly if 24 hour 'active' monitoring is entered into. The second significant cost is that any system is likely to require upgrade within a five year period, given the progress of the technology. Moreover, systems have a tendency to expand, often fuelled by demands from areas outside the surveillance area to be covered. Therefore, councils need to be realistic about the possible future growth of any system installed.

Source: Dr Dean Wilson (Monash University, Victoria), personal communication (2009)

Table 3: Estimated installation costs
Location Year of installation Number of cameras installed Estimated installation costs
Dubbo 1999 11 $225,000
Fairfield 1996 14 $652,000
Sutherland 2002 11 $600,000
Brisbane 1993 13 $250,000
Cairns 1997 14 $500,000
Ipswich 1994 13 $640,000
Bunbury 1998 14 $200,000
Melbourne 1997 10 $1,033,344
Adelaide 1995 12 $530,000

Monitoring and other recurrent costs

Beyond installation, there are numerous ongoing costs associated with running and maintaining a public space CCTV system. Different monitoring regimes are adopted in different locations, which are reflected in the disparity of estimated ongoing costs listed below.

Table 4: Estimated ongoing costs
Location Annual cost ($'000)
Ipswich 444
Sydney 900
Fairfield 340
Melbourne 400
Adelaide 310
Toowoomba 85
Brisbane 270

Note: figures were collected some years ago, so it is likely that these costs will have increased

The City of Sydney has the highest estimated ongoing costs at $900,000 per annum. The City of Sydney CCTV system is monitored 24 hours per day, 7 days a week. Other locations adopt a more modest monitoring regime, with designated staff only deployed for 'hot' times like Friday and Saturday nights and for special events. This reduction of monitoring brings down costs, but also has consequences for the effectiveness of the CCTV system to enable immediate intervention (and ideally apprehension) when a crime is occurring.

While these costs highlight major expenditure, they tend not to reveal the costs over the life of a CCTV system. Those systems that were installed in the mid-1990s will have invariably undergone major upgrades. Cameras will have been replaced, new control rooms may have been built, data storage systems overhauled and damaged signage advertising the existence of the cameras replaced. CCTV systems, once installed, are rarely disassembled. Consequently, budgets should be based on costs over decades rather than shorter periods.

Box 12 Real life example 4—Estimating staff time (Gosford Shire Council)

When estimating costs and staff time for CCTV implementation, tasks may be overlooked. Gosford Shire Council highlighted some of the tasks involved with preparing and running a CCTV system that are not often considered.

These include:

  • organising and attending oversight committee meetings;
  • setting up the system;
  • identifying locations;
  • preparing tender documentation;
  • reviewing proposals;
  • liaising with building owners where cameras are to be located;
  • establishing procedures for the operation of the system;
  • preparing and delivering presentations about the system to interested stakeholders (both internal and external); and
  • preparing and attending the opening of the CCTV system.

Staff costs

A driver of costs that rarely seems to receive attention is that of internal staff time. Staff time will be invested in preparing briefing papers for elected officials, researching CCTV system components, drawing up tender specifications to recruit consultants and companies to install the CCTV system, liaising with key stakeholders and monitoring progress. In some instances, it will be necessary to temporarily or permanently appoint a staff member to manage the CCTV system.

Opportunity costs

Beyond the actual costs associated with a CCTV system, there is also merit in considering opportunity costs. This involves considering what programs and activities will not be undertaken or invested in, due to time and resources being directed toward a CCTV system. If, based on a conservative estimate, $500,000 is invested in the installation of a CCTV system and $250,000 goes toward monitoring and maintenance costs, then what other crime prevention measures might have been purchased for $750,000 in year one and for $250,000 in year two, year three, year four, year five etc? Would alternative crime prevention techniques deliver greater outcomes?

While local circumstances and conditions will ultimately determine the total costs of installing and running a public space CCTV network, the budget checklist in Table 5 highlights some of the key component costs to be considered:

Table 5: Budget checklist
Activity Components Cost
Preparatory work
  • Crime analysis
  • Research
  • Internal briefings
  • Stakeholder meetings
  • Consultant
  • Cabling
  • Cameras
  • New poles
  • Signage
  • Lighting
  • Removal of impediments
  • Control room establishment
  • Data storage
  • Monitoring staff costs
  • Cleaning of camera domes
  • Pruning trees
  • Replacing light globes
  • Replacing damaged signage
  • Regular system maintenance
  • Replacing damaged cameras
  • System upgrades
  • Development of SOPs
  • Audit/evaluation
  • Oversight committee expenses
Legal fees
  • Staff costs
  • Insurance premiums

Cost-benefit considerations

Estimating the cost-benefits of a CCTV system can be difficult and will be dependent on numerous local variables. Nonetheless, considering whether the money spent on a CCTV system delivers a good return on investment should be an important consideration for all agencies contemplating this approach to crime prevention.

Some of the key costs have been previously identified. Some of the potential savings derived from prevention of crime is best illustrated in Counting the Costs of Crime in Australia: A 2005 Update (Rollings 2008). The report compiles the total costs of crime for particular offence categories. Where provided, per incident costs have been listed for particular crime types. This information can be helpful in determining the benefits accruing from a crime prevention intervention like CCTV.

Some of the offences listed in Table 6 are likely to be influenced by the installation of a CCTV system. By utilising these figures, it is possible to complete rudimentary analysis of the cost-benefits of establishing a CCTV system based on the reduction in particular offences and the associated financial benefits, compared with the total costs of installation and operation.

Table 6: Estimated costs of crime in Australia (2005)
Offences Cost per incident Total cost
Fraud No per incident cost $8.5b
Burglary $3,000 $2.23b
Drug offences No per incident cost $1.8b
Arson No per incident cost $1.62b
Criminal damage $1,250 $1.58b
Assault $1,700 $1.41b
Homicide $1.9m $950m
Shop theft $125 $875m
Sexual assault $7,500 $720m
Vehicle theft $7,000 $600m
Theft from vehicles No per incident cost $529m
Robbery $2,300 $225m

Source: Rollings (2008).

Last updated
3 November 2017