Video Cameras, also known as closed-circuit television (CCTV), are becoming a more common feature in American life. Terrorism fears and the ever-cheaper cameras have accelerated the trend further.
The use of CCTV surveillance systems by police officers and other officials of public security is particularly alarming in a democracy.
For instance, in the lower part of Manhattan, police are planning to create a Video surveillance company center that will allow officers to look over thousands of video cameras throughout the city. Cameras operated by police have been popping up in cities across America within the last few years.
While the ACLU does not have a problem with cameras being installed at certain prominent public spaces that could be terrorist targets, like Capitol Hill in the U.S. Capitol, the desire to cover our streets and public spaces with cameras is not a good idea. There are two main reasons:
Video Surveillance Company Is not effective
The implicit reason behind this recent move to expand surveillance by video is the possibility of a terrorist attack. However, suicide attackers are not deterred by the CCTV surveillance system.
The television coverage cameras could draw them offer as well as the cost of an extensive video surveillance company like the one in Britain that consumes about 20% of the nation’s budget for criminal justice – outweighs the limited benefits it could offer in investigating attempts to attack.
The main reason cameras are used to deter nastier crime is that they haven’t been proven to accomplish this. In Britain, where cameras have been widely placed in public spaces, sociologists who have studied the subject have found that they haven’t reduced the number of crimes.
“Once the crimes and offenses figures were adjusted to reflect the general trend towards a decrease in offenses and crimes,” criminologists found in one study, “reductions were noted in some categories, but there was no evidence that the cameras have decreased crime in general in the city center.”
A study conducted by the British Home Office also discovered that CCTV surveillance systems could not decrease crime or reduce the anxiety about criminality.
Furthermore, U.S. government experts in security technology, pointing out it is “monitoring video screens can be both fascinating and boring,” have found in tests that “after just 20 minutes of looking at and analyzing monitor screens, the interest of the majority of people has dwindled to below the acceptable level.”
Video Surveillance Effect on Public Life
The increasing presence of cameras in public spaces will result in subtle but significant modifications to the look and feel of public spaces. When people are monitored by authorities or are aware that they could be watched at any moment and are self-conscious, they tend to be more and less impulsive.
As the syndicated journalist has pointed out, “knowing that you are being monitored by security personnel with guns can slow things down. You do not want to offend them or draw attention to yourself.”
Then, he says, “people may learn to be more cautious with the magazines and books they consume in public and avoid books that could frighten unsuspecting people. They should also give more effort into the way they dress to avoid appearing to appear like gang members, terrorists, hookers, druggies, or addicts.”
Indeed, studies conducted by cameras in Britain revealed that those who were considered by the police to be “out of time and incompatible” concerning their surroundings were subjected to extended surveillance.
As with any intrusive technology, public cameras have to be weighed against the cost and risks. The technology (a) can alter the experience of walking out in public places in America due to its chilling effects on people, (b) carries very real risks of abuse and “mission creep,” as well (c) is not a significant safeguard from terrorism. In light of that, the advantages of preventing only one or two street crimes and possibly no – are not significant.