A growing number of cities are using surveillance cameras to reduce crime, but little research exists to determine whether they’re worth the cost. With jurisdictions across the country tightening their belts, public safety resources are scarce—and policymakers need to know which potential investments are likely to bear fruit. This research brief summarizes the Urban Institute’s series documenting three cities use of public surveillance cameras and how they impacted crime in their neighborhoods.
The text below is an excerpt from the complete document. Read the entire brief in PDF format.
To fill the knowledge gap, the Urban
Institute studied surveillance systems
in three cities—Baltimore, Maryland;
Chicago, Illinois; and Washington,
D.C.—to document how they were being used
and analyze how much they were affecting
crime, if at all. The theory is that surveillance
cameras will deter potential offenders, alert
police to dangerous situations, generate evidence
to help identify suspects and witnesses,
and foster the perception of safety, encouraging
people to use public spaces. We evaluated each
city’s system to learn whether it was effective
and cost-beneficial and drew on the sites’ experiences
to offer lessons to other jurisdictions.
Results varied, with crime falling in some
areas and remaining unchanged in others. Much
of the success or failure depended on how the
surveillance system was set up and monitored
and how each city balanced privacy and security.
Baltimore virtually saturated its downtown area
with cameras and assigned police to monitor live
video feeds around the clock. Chicago installed
an extensive wireless network of cameras and
allowed access to all officers. Washington, having
the fewest cameras of the three sites, placed them
strategically in high-crime areas; the site also
restricted live monitoring to protect the privacy
of people being recorded.
End of excerpt. The entire brief is available in PDF format.