This publication is designed to guide city administrators, law enforcement agencies, and their municipal partners in implementing and employing public surveillance systems in a manner that will have the greatest impact on public safety. It details the various aspects of a system that are integral in yielding a cost-beneficial impact on crime, including budgetary considerations, camera types and locations, how best to monitor cameras, and the role that video footage plays in investigations and prosecutions. It also highlights the most prominent lessons learned in an effort to guide city administrators and jurisdictions that are currently investing in cameras for public safety purposes, as well as to inform those that are contemplating doing so.
The text below is an excerpt from the complete document. Read the entire report in PDF format.
Municipalities across the country are in a constant search for effective public safety interventions
that will curb crime and improve the livability and economic well-being of their communities.
This is particularly true among law enforcement agencies that embrace a community
policing philosophy, which has become a key component of policing efforts in most mid- and
large-sized law enforcement agencies across the United States. While many believe that the
adoption of community policing has led to more efficient and effective policing strategies,
law enforcement agencies continue to grapple with limited resources and are therefore interested
in employing new, cost-effective tools that can enhance their community policing efforts.
Among the latest wave of public safety tools is the use of public surveillance systems, often referred
to as Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV). While public surveillance systems are widely
employed in the business sector to improve security, until recently the use of cameras to
monitor public spaces has been much less common in the United States, in part due to concerns
about privacy and civil liberties. Community policing, which embodies a combination of
proactive crime prevention and community engagement with more traditional policing functions,
may benefit from this technology because public surveillance can enhance problem
solving strategies, aid in arrests and investigations, and ultimately increase offenders’ perceptions
that they will be both caught and prosecuted. Public surveillance systems might also yield
a secondary impact, serving to increase legitimate users’ perceptions of safety and thus their
presence in public areas, which in turn may increase guardianship, improve police-community
partnerships, and reduce crime.
The potential contributions to policing and public safety of public surveillance systems perhaps
explain why their use has expanded in recent years. Unfortunately, these investments of scarce
public safety resources are being made in the absence of research documenting the decisions behind camera investment and use and the lessons learned
by cities that have employed this technology.
This guidebook aims to fill that gap, detailing the results
of an in-depth qualitative data collection effort to examine
and synthesize the experiences of three large urban cities
that have invested in public surveillance systems in recent
years. It serves as a companion document to an evaluation
of the impact of public surveillance cameras in three
cities that found that cameras can have a significant and
cost-effective impact on crime. While cameras hold
promise as an effective crime prevention tool, however,
it is important to note that their impact is not a given,
and varies considerably based on where cameras are
located and the degree to which they are monitored and
integrated into other law enforcement activities. This
report is therefore designed to guide city administrators,
law enforcement agencies, and their municipal partners
in making decisions regarding their public surveillance
systems in a manner that will yield the greatest intended
impact. The guidebook answers many of the important
questions that arise when implementing or expanding a
public surveillance system. It details the various aspects
of a system that are integral in realizing a cost-beneficial
impact on crime, including budgetary considerations,
camera types and locations, how best to monitor cameras,
and the role that video footage plays in investigations
and prosecutions. This publication also highlights the
most prominent lessons learned in an effort to guide both
city administrators and jurisdictions that are currently
investing in cameras for public safety purposes, as well as
inform those that are contemplating doing so.
End of excerpt. The entire report is available in PDF format.