Research Report: Has the installation of CCTV surveillance cameras in Australia reduced crime rates?

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Summary:
This research report examines the significance of CCTV surveillance cameras in Australia and their role in reducing crime. The following information was found through conducted online surveys and pre-existing data. These sources include newspaper articles, government journals and other research reports all from differing years. These findings will cover a range of aspects in relation to public CCTV surveillance cameras including, cost, monitor and operation systems, purpose, crime prevention and overall value. They have been gathered in order to gain a wider understanding and establish a series of varying perspectives, to further analyse the relevant question, ‘has the installation of CCTV surveillance cameras in Australia reduced crime rates?’.

The initial purpose of surveillance cameras was to deter burglary, assault and car theft but have now been extended to combat street crime and anti-social behaviour. You can now find CCTV cameras on almost every street used to benefit the local councils, police and public. With these increased installations and their ongoing costs, a relevant question would be to know whether or not they actually do decrease crime rates and keep our streets safe. It is because of the public’s involvement that an online participation survey was conducted to collect a sample size of opinions and perspectives on the matter. The website surveymonkey.com gathered a total of 13 differing responses from people aged between 18-25. These varying resources supplied a range of answers essentially allowing this research report to come to a final conclusion.

Aim:
The aim of this research report is to examine the question ‘has the installation of CCTV surveillance cameras in Australia reduced crime rates?’. Through conducted online surveys and found data, such as newspaper articles, government journals and other research reports this question will be explored.

Method:
To answer the proposed question a series of found data and statistics had to be sort through to obtain background information on the issue.  A variety of sources were gathered including, Australian Government journals, research reports and newspaper articles, in order to collect people’s differing perspectives and opinions on the matter. The resources covered all aspects of CCTV surveillance cameras including cost, monitoring and operation systems, purpose, crime prevention and overall value. An online survey was then conducted using the website surveymonkey.com, to allow the public’s say. A total of 13 participants volunteered to answer several questions in relation to public surveillance cameras and their answers were evaluated. The collected data was then further analysed and a conclusion was made.

Findings:
There were several findings used to explore the question, ‘has the installation of CCTV surveillance cameras in Australia reduced crime rates?’. A total of five sources were examined in order to fully understand the effects of surveillance cameras and their worth in Australia. These online sources included a series of newspaper articles, government journals and other research reports. This variety of findings allowed multiple perspectives on the relevant issue and to avoid any bias behaviour or one-sided arguments. Out of many potential sources, these five were picked on their credibility and accuracy as not to rely on any incorrect data. Found and self-conducted statistics have also been utilised in this research report to give an idea of the public’s opinions and beliefs in regards to surveillance cameras and their privacy. These findings will now be further reviewed.

In 2001, the Australian Institute of Criminology conducted a research report titled ‘Can surveillance cameras be successful in preventing crime and controlling anti-social behaviours?’. It examines a range of aspects covering surveillance cameras and whether their increased installations are necessary in all public spaces. The report also explores the major costs behind CCTV cameras reportedly adding up to billions of dollars. The costs and considerations for installing a surveillance camera do not just stop at the installation, monitoring and maintenance fees but instead continue at vandal proofing, audits, evaluations, community consultations, monitoring rooms, staff, staff training and even lighting improvement costs. Although these costs may seem worth it at the start, where crime and misbehaviour are caught out, in time the benefits seem to fade where displacement of the cameras occur or a different shift in crimes begin where these surveillance cameras are less susceptible to.  However, in saying this the report goes on believing that CCTV surveillance cameras do indeed promote public safety and allows a sense of security for people on the street. This particular report comes to the conclusion that the use of CCTV surveillance cameras is a necessity in reducing street crimes.

‘Open street CCTV in Australia,’ is a government journal organized by the Australia Institute of Criminology in 2003, exploring visual surveillance cameras in Australia and their effects on public crime and security. The journal goes into great lengths detailing the operations and monitoring systems that keep our surveillance systems continually running. It lists the two types monitoring modes that are active and passive. Active monitoring is where a team of staff consistently patrol CCTV systems. Operators must remain alert to potential incidents or emergencies and respond to when needed. Passive monitoring is where the systems are in view but are only casually watched from time to time. These observers only really respond to emergencies set off by alerts, as they are usually busy with other duties off screen. The mode of the monitoring systems is determined by the location’s crime rate and chosen by the police or local government. According to this 2003 government journal, the monitoring systems behind CCTV surveillance cameras is one of the most crucial elements behind them, increasing security and allowing a better surveillance on public crime.

Another report by the Australian Institute of Criminology titled, ‘CCTV use by local government: findings from a national survey’, was conducted in 2015 and explores a national survey investigating CCTV camera usage by local councils. The report also looks at the increase in the installations of surveillance systems in a more recent time. The reports carried out a variety of surveys, one in particular which investigated the frequency of which CCTV footage was requested by the police, investigating the importance of surveillance cameras on criminal investigations rather than just focusing on crime prevention benefits. The years 2012-2013 were examined and it was found that four out of five councils had received requests from police to provide surveillance footage at least once in that one-year time span. It was further discovered that one in five councils were asked by police to provide surveillance camera footage once a week on average and an additional 19% were asked monthly. The results also indicated that only 15% of local councils were not asked at all. In conclusion the report determined that there was in fact enough evidence to prove CCTV footage has a positive impact in terms of identifying and apprehending offenders. Regarding whether or not the local council’s crime rate is high enough should indicate whether or not the installation of surveillance cameras is a necessity.

A well-known newspaper, The Sunday Herald, released an article in 2012 titled ‘The real cost of CCTV might stop you smiling.’ The newspaper article examined the costs associated with the installation and operations of surveillance systems. It was reported that in the years prior to 2012, the city of Sydney would spend up to $1.7 million annually to operate and monitor their cameras. This sum did not include the fees for maintenance and upgrades. It was also revealed that in despite of these costs, the public support for CCTV surveillance cameras were quite high. The article came to the conclusion that strategically placed and well-managed cameras with clear objectives do actually help prevent crime and increase security, although stating there are too many that are displaced and unnecessary.

Another newspaper article that covered a piece on CCTV surveillance cameras was by The Saturday Paper in 2014, titled ‘CCTV installation for crime prevention, or ‘friends of the government?’. The article went on to explore the newly introduced government $50 million funding program named ‘Safer Streets’ that went towards surveillance systems in Australia. The writer, Rob Carr, found information from several local government councils revealing that the shortcomings of CCTV surveillance systems do not match the cost of installation and operations. These results had people questioning the actual intention for CCTV surveillance cameras. The article also provided statistics, stating that the installation cost of a camera is up to $55 000, while Australians are paying an estimate of $600 000 a year of their own money to keep CCTV cameras operational. (CCTV installation for crime prevention, or ‘friends of the government?, 2014).

By examining a range of findings including government journals, research reports and newspaper articles, this report has gained a wider understanding and several varying perspectives in relation to the installation of CCTV surveillance cameras in Australia. By reviewing all aspects of CCTV surveillance cameras, such as cost, monitor and operation systems, purpose, crime prevention and overall value, this research report has come to an overall summary. Although they are costly and come with its shortcomings, when installed in the locations actually required, surveillance cameras do in fact reduce crime rates and allow a sense of security for the public.

Survey:
The website surveymonkey.com was utilised to gather a sample size of the public’s perspectives on several questions regarding CCTV surveillance cameras. There was a total of 4 questions, collecting 13 differing responses from people aged 18-25 years old. All answers were submitted anonymously and kept confidential. This was expressed through a statement of consent displayed at the beginning of the survey, that all volunteering participants had to agree to.

The first question was: Do you believe the need for an increased number of CCTV surveillance cameras is necessary in today’s society?

Screen Shot 2016-06-03 at 8.26.15 PM7 people agreed, 4 were neutral and 2 disagreed.

The Second question was: Are the installation and ongoing costs, paid for by the government (and by your taxes), worth keeping them running?

Screen Shot 2016-06-03 at 8.24.42 PM

9 people agreed, 1 was neutral and 3 disagreed.

The third question was: Do you believe that surveillance cameras have decreased crime rates and help solve felonies?

Screen Shot 2016-06-03 at 8.22.23 PM

8 people agreed, 4 were neutral and 1 disagreed.

The fourth question was not a yes or no question, meaning the results are best not determined in a bar graph. The question states: Why do you think people feel that CCTV and surveillance cameras are an invasion of privacy? Majority of people believed it was because they feel as though they are constantly being watched and tracked for the wrong reasons. The rest of the participants could not relate to the question, as they did not have an issue with being monitored by CCTV cameras.

Overall, the outcome from the survey showed that majority of participants agreed with the public use of surveillance cameras and believed that they should be kept running.

 Conclusion:
This research report has explored the question, ‘has the installation of CCTV surveillance cameras in Australia reduced crime rates?’. Through online sources such as Australian Government journals, newspaper articles and research reports, found data and statistics were gathered and analysed.  The contribution of this information allowed varying perspectives regarding public CCTV surveillance cameras, covering multiple aspects including their costs, monitor and operation systems, purpose, overall value and most importantly crime prevention. When examined all utilised material came to similar conclusions, that despite shortcomings and unnecessary installations, when placed in required areas CCTV surveillance cameras are extremely effective.  Along with this, an online survey was conducted in order to obtain the public’s opinions and values regarding the issue at hand. A total of 13 participants responded to the 4 questions provided. It was found that majority of volunteers agreed with the use of surveillance cameras for public safety and the prevention of crime. Through further analysis this research report has come to the conclusion, that when installed in required locations that show the need for crime prevention, CCTV surveillance cameras do indeed promote public safety and reduce crime rates. 

Bibliography:

Aker, J & others, 2015, The Lean Research Framework: Principles for human-centred field research, Massachusetts institute of technology & Tufts university, viewed
6th April 2016

Carr, R, 2014, ‘CCTV installation for crime prevention, or ‘friends of the government’?’, The Saturday Paper, 2nd August, viewed 6th April 2016

<https://www.thesaturdaypaper.com.au/news/politics/2014/08/02/cctv-installation-crime-prevention-or-friends-the-government/1406901600>

Taylor, E, 2012, ‘The real cost of CCTV might stop you smiling’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 10th October, viewed 6th April 2016

<http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-opinion/the-real-cost-of-cctv-might-stop-you-smiling-20121009-27b4m.html>

Adrienne Isnard, 2001, Can surveillance cameras be successful in preventing crime and controlling anti-social behaviours?, Australian Institute of Criminology, Townsville, viewed 6th April 2016

<http://www.aic.gov.au/media_library/conferences/regional/isnard1.pdf>

Hulme, S, Morgan, A & Brown, R, ‘CCTV use by local government: findings from a national survey’, Research in practice, Australian Institute of Criminology, Canberra, viewed 6th April 2016

<http://www.aic.gov.au/publications/current%20series/rip/21-40/rip40.html>

Wilson, D & Sutton, A, 2003, ‘Open-street CCTV in Australia’, Trends & issues in crime and criminal justice, Australian institute of criminology, vol. 1, no. 271, pp. 1-6

< http://www.aic.gov.au/media_library/publications/tandi_pdf/tandi271.pdf>

Finley, R & C Finley, 2016, Survey Monkey
<https://www.surveymonkey.com/home/>

2016, Meta Chart, meta-chat.com, viewed 1st June 2016,

< https://www.meta-chart.com/bar>

Candy, L, 2006, ‘Practice Based Research: A Guide,’ University of technology, Sydney, vol. 1 no. 1, pp. 1-19, viewed 20th May 2016

http://www.creativityandcognition.com/resources/PBR%20Guide-1.1-2006.pdf

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