Cameras or Cops?

The million-plus surveillance cameras that monitor London’s citizens haven’t stopped much crime, the BBC reports. According to a police report, just one crime was solved by every 1,000 cameras, creating “a huge intrusion on privacy, yet … little or no improvement in security.” Similarly in the U.S., writes Peter Moskos, the “cornerstone of urban policing,” cops patrolling in cars, “has no effect on crime rates, victimization, or public satisfaction.” [%comments]


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  1. Micah says:

    I wonder if there’s a way to gauge if Londoners feel more secure as a result of all the cameras, even if it doesn’t actually improve public safety. Couldn’t those small number of crimes solved with CCTV cameras create anecdotal evidence that the cameras are doing more than they actually are?

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  2. Gary says:

    Are they measuring the number of crimes that were never even attempted because of the camera’s presence?

    Or are they ONLY considering the number of crimes committed that were solved by use of the camera?

    What if the real numbers are this:
    with the cameras, 1000 crimes committed, 1 solved.
    without the cameras: 2000 crimes committed, 0 solved.

    So did the cameras solve just 1 crime, or reduce 1000 crimes?

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  3. Bananen says:

    Totalitarianism rarely is an effective mean to limit crimes.

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  4. Ross says:

    I would choose camera because a camera has never tasered a pregnant lady…

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  5. Joe D says:

    Doesn’t anyone watch MI-5? See how many bad guys they catch with the cameras that you never, ever hear about?


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  6. Eric M. Jones says:

    I surmise that the “security” police get a thousand times more data than they can ever examine or use. So much secret data, radar tapes, black boxes, surveillance videos, satellite reconnaissance, international phone taps, etc., is merely a showpiece after the fact. Perhaps the presence of the cameras is a deterence.

    The NSA apparently listen to nearly everything and has “marginally conscious” computers to sort it all out. Still the government blows it. (one might argue that they “get” more than they “miss”, but then you would have to explain how they missed the fall of the USSR…?)

    I think court-ordered targeted surveillance can be justified, but just spying on everyone, hoping you’ll catch something, is a waste of time, undermines the society, and in the US at least, is illegal.

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  7. jeffreytg says:

    I am intrigued when people are bothered by cameras but not by officers on the street to the same degree.

    -Bananen: would it be totalitarianism for there to be a cop in stead of a camera? If so, then exactly how many cops in what size area is totalitarianism vs simple policing?

    Cameras are simply surrogates for feet on the street that don’t call in sick or go on strike. A cop can make a mental note of what occurs, write it down, and file it away. A camera makes a picture vs a written note. A cop could be a trained artist and record people walking by, or the state could have 100 cops on the street corner recording a drawing of very person walking by. A camera is simply a cheaper more expedient manner to do some of what a cop on the street could do.

    I fail to understand the objection to these cameras.

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  8. J says:

    I’m not a fan of cameras everywhere, but in fairness, Gary is right. Solving crime and stopping crime are not the same thing.

    “Totalitarianism rarely is an effective mean to limit crimes”

    Not sure where you’re getting your data; totalitarianism is an extremely effective way to stop crime (other than by the totalitarians themselves). I’d rather see a heavily armed population with very liberal castle doctrine laws, but totalitarianism works.

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