In the first study of its kind, the Urban Institute found that police surveillance cameras in Chicago have had a noticeable impact on crime in the areas in which they are placed. The same couldn’t be said for Washington DC, however, and the report links the difference to the enforcement related to the cameras.
In cities who wholly integrate the cameras into their daily operations, crime should drop accordingly. The study, which looked at Baltimore, Chicago, and DC, showed this to be true. Both Baltimore and Chicago saw a drop in criminal activity in those areas where the cameras were while DC saw no significant change.
Chicago saw a drop of 12% in areas with cameras while Baltimore saw a decrease of 35%. The reason is that these two departments didn’t just hang cameras and go about business as usual, they actually staffed surveillance officers to monitor the cameras instead of only using them as an investigative tool after a crime had been committed.
Chicago police officers can actually link in to the cameras from their desk computers, watching the streets from in the department. The department hopes to make the technology available to officers on their Blackberry’s soon as well.
While officials in DC object to the findings, the research showed that their crime rates did fall in the areas with cameras but that they also fell in other areas throughout the city.
Chicago spend $.6.8 million on their camera system, with most of the money going to staffing. But the program is said to save about $815,000 a month in criminal justice and victims’ costs.
Both Chicago and Baltimore credit their success with “saturating areas with as many cameras as possible and then aggressively pairing the technology with staffing,” according to The Crime Report. Simply hanging cameras and making the public aware of them wasn’t enough; they had to have real time enforcement and departmental integration for any significant impact to take place.
This study is interesting because there have been arguments on either side of the surveillance situation, with some saying there simply isn’t enough value in the cameras to justify the potential infringement on people’s privacy rights. If the research is legitimate, the findings are pretty remarkable.
What isn’t known is how the study arrived at the cost-benefits of the program. Did they account money saved to mean the officers who didn’t need to be on the streets because a camera was there in their place? Or are these savings strictly associated with the footage providing solid evidence in a criminal case, leading to a faster procession through the courts process?
The cameras, though they may be effective, are not fail-proof. If you are caught on camera committing a criminal offense, it doesn’t have to be the end of the road. Contact our offices today to discuss the details of your case.