Half CCTV schemes do not reduce crime rates

Jason Bennetto,Crime Correspondent
Saturday 29 June 2002 00:00

More than half the closed-circuit television schemes in city centres, housing estates and on public transport have no effect on the crime rate, findings from a Home Office study suggest.

In some cases where CCTV has been installed the number of crimes has increased while city-centre cameras also have little effect on cutting violent assaults, the official report says. The results from the review of CCTV schemes, which is to be published next month, were seized upon by a rehabilitation group as evidence that the Government was wasting money on so many cameras and exaggerating their effectiveness.

The embarrassing conclusions emerged on the day that a Home Office minister opened a £3m CCTV control centre in Manchester. It monitors 400 cameras across the city.

The forthcoming Home Office report, details of which were published at a conference, found that in schemes in 12 city centres and two council estates, six had no effect or an uncertain one, crime rates increased in two and in the other six the number of offences fell. The study concluded that CCTV produced a very small but statistically significant reduction in crime of 3 per cent in these examples.

The results of four public transport evaluations revealed that crime rates fell in two schemes, one had no effect, and offences increased in one.

The one area that does appear to be an unqualified success is car parking. Of six schemes assessed, five were found to have reduced crime, while the rates rose in only one. The review concluded that CCTV had a important and positive effect, with crime dropping by 45 per cent.

Overall, the review suggests that CCTV appears to have no effect on violent crime, a significant effect on vehicle crime and is most effective when used in car parks.

A Home Office spokeswoman said yesterday that CCTV had other benefits, including reducing the fear of crime and helping police to obtain evidence in criminal cases.

Cameras have provided crucial evidence in terrorist attacks, street assaults, and notorious cases such as that of David Copeland, the so-called nail bomber who was photographed dropping off an explosive device in a bag in Brixton, south London.

A report by the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders (Nacro), published yesterday, said the Home Office's own research cast doubt on the ability of CCTV to cut crime. The charity warned against over-investing in the cameras at the expense of "more effective measures" such as street lights, which research suggests could be up to four times as good at deterring offenders.

Rachel Armitage, of Nacro's crime and social policy unit, said: "It would be foolish to claim that well-planned CCTV can never have an impact, but the effectiveness of CCTV is often overstated."

But Lord Falconer of Thoroton, the Home Office minister, rejected as ridiculous and absurd any suggestion that CCTV was overrated. He was speaking at the opening of one of the country's most sophisticated monitoring systems in Manchester.

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