Studies and Articles on Video Surveillance

Jul 31, 2007
Nicole A. Ozer

Page Media

ACLU of Northern CA


Under the Watchful Eye: The Proliferation of Video Surveillance Systems in California (Full Report)

Under the Watchful Eye, a report issued by the California ACLU affiliates, examines the justifications for and consequences of the dramatic expansion in government video surveillance of public space at the local level. This report explains in detail the joint assessment of the three California ACLU affiliates on government-funded video surveillance cameras and the current state of video surveillance in California. Part I looks at the threat posed by public video surveillance to privacy and other civil liberties. Part II examines law enforcement justifications for video surveillance programs and an evaluation of these programs' effectiveness. Part III reviews the findings from our public records survey of California cities. Part IV offers policy recommendations.

CITRIS Report: The San Francisco Community Safety Camera Program (Full Report)

This report released by researchers Professor Jennifer King, Professor Deirdre Mulligan, and Professor Steven Raphael is a comprehensive evaluation of San Francisco's public surveillance camera system in 2008.

Other Studies and Articles on Video Surveillance

An increasing number of American cities and towns are currently investing millions of taxpayer dollars in surveillance camera systems. But few are closely examining the costs and benefits of those investments, or creating mechanisms for measuring those costs and benefits over time. There is extensive academic literature on the subject–studies carried out over many years–and that research strongly indicates that video surveillance has no statistically significant effect on crime rates.


CCTV and the Social Structuring of Surveillance
The installation of Closed Circuit Television Cameras (CCTV) on British streets has been the crime prevention initiative of the century. However, little attention has been paid to who and what the cameras actually watch and how operators select their targets. This paper draws on a two year study in the operation of CCTV control rooms to examine how target selection is socially differentiated by age, rage and gender and asks whether this leads to discrimination.

Home Office Research Study 292: Assessing the Impact of CCTV (2005)
This comprehensive study that looked at 13 jurisdictions in Britain found that cameras did not significantly reduce crime, especially violent crime in city centers. Not only did cameras not reduce crime, but they also did not reduce fear of crime. Surveys of individuals in the survey area reported that they did not feel safer and were not more likely to go into city centers after camera placement.

The Effect of Closed Circuit Television on Recorded Crime Rates and Public Concern about Crime in Glasgow (1999)
This earlier British study, conducted by the Scottish Central Research Unit, evaluated crime statistics preceding and following the institution of surveillance cameras in Glasgow, Scotland. Researchers found cameras had little impact on crime, finding reductions in crime no more significant than those in control areas without the camera locations. Researchers also found that installing surveillance cameras does not make people less likely to avoid high crime areas. The study also found that cameras did not significantly improve clearance rates.

Home Office Research Study 251: Effects of Improved Street Lighting on Crime: A Systematic Review (2002)
Public safety dollars spent on video surveillance are not spent in a vacuum; they can trade off with other more effective programs. This study looked at 13 jurisdictions in Britain and the United States and found that on average, improved lighting alone reduces crime 20%. These remarkable results suggest that from a public safety perspective, it makes a lot more sense to spend limited resources on improved lighting as opposed to video surveillance given its lack of effectiveness and significant impact on privacy.

Spy Cameras Fail to Focus on Street Crime
Surveillance cameras that are in place in a number of jurisdictions have not met expectations of police or prosecutors. This article reports on disappointing results in a number of jurisdictions.


"SF police chief wants more security cameras," SF Chronicle (4/23/13)

"CCTV schemes in city and town centres have little effect on crime, says report," Guardian (05/18/2009)

"SF Spy Cameras No Help in Violent Crime," San Francisco Chronicle (1/12/2009)

"A Shot in the Dark," San Francisco Magazine (7/2008)

Editorial: "We watch it when we're being watched," Orange County Register (6/30/2008)

"In Budget Crunch, Mayor Proposes New Secutiry Cameras," Beyond Chron (6/30/2008)

Learn more:

ACLU Report Shows Widespread Pentagon Surveillance of Peace Activists

SF Police Commission Votes on 25 New Video Surveillance Cameras

Under the Watchful Eye: The Proliferation of Video Surveillance Systems in California