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New report questions the effectiveness of CCTV in preventing crime

The report, Crime and CCTV in Australia: Understanding the Relationship, was released today.

It confirmed the value of CCTV in detecting crime and providing good evidence of criminal acts but raised important questions about its value in preventing crime and public disorder from occurring.

“Although CCTV cameras are commonly used in public spaces and on public transport throughout Australia, this was the first Australian study of its type that attempted to look at how effective CCTV was in both preventing and detecting crime” said Helene Wells, the Senior Research Officer.
The report investigated the effectiveness of CCTV cameras in publicly surveilled places on the Gold Coast (Surfers Paradise and Broadbeach) and on the Queensland Rail Citytrain network.
“CCTV is now a multi-million dollar business, used by Councils, police departments, government authorities, transport operators and private businesses to monitor a wide range of activities,” said Professor Wilson, the Chief Investigator of the two-year study. “It is often the first thing politicians ask for when there is a crime problem in their area.”
“However,” he said, “it may not necessarily be the best method in a particular location of preventing crime.”
The research also investigated how CCTV footage is monitored, stored and received via an observational study in the Gold Coast control room. The interaction between CCTV users during large-scale events such as the Lexmark Indy 300 Week and Schoolies Week on the Gold Coast was also examined. Gold Coast residents and business traders, as well as QR Citytrain commuters were surveyed in an effort to gauge the general public’s perception of CCTV cameras and rights to privacy.

Overall it appears CCTV is effective at detecting violent crime as opposed to preventing any type of crime. The results from the observational study tend to suggest the effectiveness of CCTV is dependent on a whole range of issues, particularly the monitoring strategies adopted by the camera operators.

“There is no doubt that we can improve the effectiveness of CCTV by paying more attention to where cameras are placed and how monitoring is conducted,” said Professor Wilson.

Nearly everyone, it seems, loves CCTV. The majority of survey respondents support the use of CCTV to prevent crime and terrorism in Australia with most disagreeing with the notion that the presence of CCTV cameras is an invasion of privacy.

The research adds to what is already known internationally about the effectiveness of CCTV in specific contexts and goes some way to address the dearth of rigorous evidence-based Australian research. It is the first published Australian research examining how CCTV is used in public spaces and on public transport. The findings of the current research will aid those that have already implemented CCTV and those considering implementation to more clearly articulate realistic objectives that may be accomplished through the use of CCTV surveillance.

The report, authored by Professor Paul Wilson and Helene Wells from Bond University and Dr Troy Allard from Griffith University, is the culmination of a two year research project undertaken with the assistance of an Australian Research Council (ARC) grant. The Queensland Police Service, Queensland Rail, Department of Communities and the Gold Coast City Council were industry partners and contributed monetary and in-kind support.

Crime and CCTV in Australia: Understanding the Relationship will be officially launched at Bond University today at 10.30am AEST by Professor Raoul Mortley, Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences.

Report authors Professor Paul Wilson and Helene Wells will be presenting the findings of the report and will be available for interviews and/ or photographs. Media are invited to attend.

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