Is public CCTV effective?

Key findings and practical recommendations

[Editor's note: John Honovich publishes this and other information on network video at]

While we continue to spend more on public CCTV systems, the debate on CCTV effectiveness has reached a polarizing and inconclusive standoff. On the one side, you have a number of studies and leading thinkers who cleary contend that CCTV systems are ineffective. On the other, you have numerous municipalities who are weekly green-lighting new CCTV projects.

This report offers key findings from the 20 top studies/articles in the field and offers practical recommendations on how to optimize the use of public CCTV systems.

A directory of the 20 top papers in the field are included at the end of this document. This report is based on those papers.

Key Findings Summary

  • The expectation that CCTV systems should be deployed to reduce crime rather than solve crime has created huge problems.

  • While the studies show serious doubt on CCTV's ability to reduce crime generally, a strong consensus exists in CCTV's ability to reduce premeditative/property crime

  • CCTV is consistently treated as a singular, stable technology, obscuring radical technological changes that have occurred in the last 10 years

  • Differences in per camera costs are largely ignored, preventing policy makers from finding ways to reduce costs

  • Routine comparison of police vs cameras is counterproductive

Practical Recommendations Summary

  • Stop claiming that CCTV can generally reduce crime

  • Optimize future public CCTV projects around crime solving rather than crime reduction

  • Optimize future public CCTV projects around material and premeditative crimes

  • Target technologies that support crime solving and material/premeditative crimes

  • Focus on minimizing cost per camera

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