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The Effect of Closed Circuit Television on Recorded Crime Rates and Public Concern about Crime in Glasgow - Research Findings

DescriptionThe research on which this summary is based was commissioned to assess the impact of the cameras on crime in the city centre and on public concerns about crime.
ISBN0 7480 8207 7
Official Print Publication Date
Website Publication DateAugust 17, 1999

Crime and Criminal Justice Research Findings No 30

The Effect of Closed Circuit Television on Recorded Crime Rates
and Public Concern about Crime in Glasgow

ISBN 0-7480-8207-7 Publisher The Scottish Office

Glasgow's city centre closed circuit television (CCTV) street camera scheme was inaugurated on 1 November 1994. The research on which this summary is based was commissioned to assess the impact of the cameras on crime in the city centre and on public concerns about crime. Police recorded crime figures were compared and street surveys conducted before and after the cameras came into operation. The researchers suggest that the cameras were relatively successful, with some reductions in certain crime categories. Overall, however, the reductions in crime are no more significant than those in the control areas outwith the camera locations. Less than half (41%) of those questioned on the streets in the city were aware of the cameras 15 months after their installation and their impact on public concern was limited.
Main Findings
  • In the 12 months after installation of the cameras there were 3,156 fewer crimes and offences than the average for the 24 months preceding installation.
  • Once the crime and offence figures were adjusted to take account of the general downward trend in crimes and offences, reductions were noted in certain categories but there was no evidence to suggest that the cameras had reduced crime overall in the city centre.
  • The cameras appeared to have little effect on clear up rates for crimes and offences.
  • 33% of people questioned in the city centre were aware of the cameras 3 months after installation and 41% 15 months after installation.
  • Installation of the CCTV cameras did not reduce the proportion of those who said they would sometimes avoid a certain part of the city but there was a slight reduction in those who said they were anxious about becoming a victim of crime in the city centre.
  • 72% of all those interviewed believed CCTV cameras would prevent crime and disorder; 81% thought they would be effective in catching perpetrators; and 79% thought they would make people feel less likely that they would become victims of crime.
  • 67% of those interviewed 'did not mind' being observed by street cameras.
On the basis of a study in 1992 the Glasgow Development Agency concluded that inward investment into Glasgow was threatened by an image of the city as a dangerous, high crime area. Although this image had already been brought into question by the comparative results of crime surveys in England and Wales and Scotland in 1981 and 1988, the Agency saw value in the installation of city centre CCTV cameras. Following local consultations with businesses, the local authority and other organisations, a steering committee was established which, in turn, became the autonomous Glasgow CityWatch.
CityWatch was established as a crime prevention initiative which aimed to effect a reduction in the cost of crime to businesses, reduce the clean up costs of crime and vandalism, increase the opportunities for employment and improve the overall 'feel good' factor in the city centre. The city centre CCTV scheme was officially launched on 1 November 1994, with 32 cameras being installed within part of the area covered by 'A' Division of Strathclyde Police.
The Study
The evaluation was conducted through:
  • an analysis of police recorded crime statistics for a two year period before the installation of the cameras and one year following their installation1
  • street surveys in the CCTV area and two control areas which were carried out nine months before installation and three months and 15 months after installation2
  • observation within the CCTV control room
  • interviews with key personnel such as the police and local development agencies
CCTV Impact on Crime
In the year following installation of the CCTV cameras, crimes and offences in the areas covered by the cameras fell by 3,156. There was, however, a general downward trend in crimes and offences over the period before and after camera installation3. Once the figures for crimes and offences had been adjusted to take these general trends into account, the research analysis concluded that the installation of city centre CCTV cameras could not be said to have had a significant impact overall in reducing recorded crimes and offences. A similar adjustment had also been made to the figures for Airdrie but a distinct decrease in crime occurred there (see 'Does Closed Circuit Television Prevent Crime? An Evaluation of the Use of CCTV Surveillance Cameras in Airdrie Town Centre'; Central Research Unit).
The statistical analysis was conducted on all recorded crimes and offences. One might expect, however, that cameras would impact differently in terms of the types of incidents observed or detected (cleared-up) and in terms of deterrence and, in fact, after statistical adjustments some of those crimes and offences most observable by cameras had still decreased: crimes of violence by 230; fire raising and vandalism by 57; offences of petty assault, breach of the peace and drunkenness by 272; and vehicle offences by 318. Crimes of indecency, including prostitution, increased by 120; crimes of dishonesty increased by 2185; and miscellaneous offences (including drugs offences) increased by 464.
The cameras appeared to have little effect on the clear up rates for crimes and offences generally. Comparing statistics before and after installation of the cameras, the clear up rate increased slightly from 62% to 64%. Once these figures were adjusted for general trends, however, the research analysis concluded that the clear up rate fell from 64% to 60%4.
The effect of CCTV cameras is not, of course, necessarily to increase the clear up rate for crimes and offences. Cameras will identify more incidents than might otherwise be the case and assist in the deployment of police officers but not necessarily lead to the identification of a suspect.
Public awareness of CCTV
For CCTV cameras to reduce crime through deterrence people must, of course, be aware of them. Only 33% of people questioned in the city centre three months after camera installation were aware that CCTV cameras were in place. This figure increased to 41% 15 months after installation. Those out deliberately to commit crimes may, of course, have higher levels of awareness.
The research was, of course, limited to a 12 month follow up period. Awareness of the cameras may have increased subsequently and their impact on crime and clear up rates may have improved. In addition, it is known that subsequent viewing of tapes has assisted the police in clearing up a number of serious crimes.
CCTV Impact on Public Perceptions
Around 3000 people were interviewed in the city centre and the two control areas nine months before and three and fifteen months after installation of the cameras.
All those interviewed for the street surveys were asked about how effective they thought street cameras were:
  • 72% thought CCTV would prevent crime and disorder
  • 81% thought it would be effective in catching perpetrators
  • 79% thought it would make people feel they would be less likely to become victims of a crime
Perhaps, understandably, those interviewed in the city centre (many of whom lived outside the city) were more concerned about their safety in the city centre than were those interviewed in, and in relation to, the control areas (most of whom did live in the interview area). After camera installation, those interviewed in the city centre remained more likely to say they would avoid it sometimes (50% before camera installation; 59% 3 months after installation; 65% 15 months after). Those in the control areas continued to be less likely to say they would sometimes avoid these areas (43% before camera installation; 39% 3 months after; 37% 15 months after).
Nevertheless, those interviewed in the city centre showed some slight decrease in concern about becoming a victim of crime - from 61% before camera installation to 55% 15 months after installation. When interviewed before camera installation, 61% of people had said that they would feel safer if CCTV cameras were installed. Avoidance of the city centre on certain occasions may, therefore, reflect more than anxiety about crime.
Public Acceptance of CCTV
All those interviewed were told that the purpose of CCTV cameras was to reduce crime and the fear of crime and that the cameras were continually monitored by trained staff. Interviewees were asked whether they 'minded' being watched by cameras in shops, banks, car parks and in the street. A smaller proportion of interviewees did not mind being observed in the streets (67%) than elsewhere (shops and banks -79%; car parks-86%). Those who minded were more likely to be male, aged between 16 and 34 and crime victims. Young men are, of course, more likely than others to be not only victims of crimes but also perpetrators and may, therefore, be least favourably disposed to street cameras.
Those who minded street cameras were more likely to feel they could erode civil liberties, drive crime into non-camera areas and lead to fewer police officers on the beat.
Observing The CCTV Control Room
During the first 12 months of camera operation, wide variations occurred in the number of logged incidents and the proportion of those incidents leading to an arrest, depending upon time of day, month, type of incident, camera and operator.
Most incidents occurred in the early hours, between midnight and 4am and the fewest between 6 and 10am. November and December saw the highest number of incidents, February and March the least. Certain cameras will, of course, capture more incidents than others because of their location and field of vision. There was also wide variation in the number of incidents logged by each camera operator and the proportion of such incidents which led to an arrest. It is understood that operators worked to police shifts and should, therefore, over a 12 month period have worked evenly between busy shifts (at night) and lighter shifts (morning). Those whose night shifts came before Christmas may, however, have witnessed proportionately more incidents.
Certain operators took the view that they should put their name to a logged incident only if they had identified it and not, for example, if the alert had come from a police officer or member of the public. Others were more likely to record all incidents which came to their attention. Training, experience and general enthusiasm might also be expected to impact on the number of incidents logged by individual operators and the proportion of these leading to an arrest.
Certain locations or types of location and certain categories of the public were more usually focussed on, depending again perhaps on the training, experience and enthusiasm of the individual operators. Railway and underground station entrances, discos, pubs and nightclubs, 'phone boxes, bus stops, cash points and certain streets were likely to be focused on. There was also a general view that young men (statistically more likely to be involved in crime, particularly robberies, theft, vandalism and break-ins) should be targeted by the cameras, particularly if seen running or 'acting suspiciously'.
'Suspicion' might be aroused if the young men were 'hanging around' certain shop fronts or open car boots. 'Suspicion' might also be aroused, depending on the experience and perceptions of the individual operator, by young men wearing 'puffa' jackets, football shirts, baseball caps, pony tails and woolly hats. Demeanour was also seen as a trigger for operator attention.
The police and the civilian camera operators worked closely together and clearly to mutual advantage. There was, however, some feeling among some operators that this closeness could result in tensions over who had most right to control and direct the cameras on certain occasions.
Unlike Airdrie, CCTV cameras in Glasgow city centre did not appear to have a major impact on crime, at least in the first 12 months following installation, although the researchers maintain that the cameras were relatively successful. Professor Nick Tilley has argued that CCTV research has provided "...some good news, some bad news and lots of mixed news.' and that this is "...inevitable because measures will have differing impacts depending on the conditions in which they are introduced." He argues, therefore, that future research should focus on asking about the circumstances in which CCTV cameras operate better in some locations than in others and why this should be5.
The original intention was to conduct a two year follow up but the cameras took longer than expected to come into use, making this impossible within the scope of the commissioned research.
2 Again, this aspect of the planned study was affected by the delay in the cameras 'going live'. It had been planned to conduct the surveys 12 months before and 12 and 24 months after installation/'going live'.
3 Scotland: 1992: 564,890; 1993: 517,247; 1994: 500,110; 1995: 475,697. Strathclyde Police: 1992: 306,047; 1993: 270,143; 1994: 255,526; 1995: 243,174.
4 The control area for comparative purposes was taken as the rest of 'A' Division. The city centre is, of course, unique and crime and its detection in the control area may have differed in nature and may account to some degree for the downturn in figures for crimes, offences and clear ups once statistical adjustments were made.
5 'Whys and Wherefores in Evaluating the Effectiveness of CCTV', International Journal of Risk, Security and Crime Prevention, Vol 2, No 3. July 1997.
'The Effect of Closed Circuit Television on Recorded Crime Rates and Public Concern about Crime in Glasgow', the research report summarised in this Research Findings, is available priced £5. Cheques should be made payable to the Stationery Office and addressed to:
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