Individual right - the right to privacy VS. public order - the need to use surveillance Cameras to deter crime.
The Surveillance cameras are regularly connected to machines for taping the proceedings, but nobody looks at these tapes unless something untoward happens. These cameras are on the march and have spread to gas stations, ATMs, mini-marts, sporting events as also on the streets. After the attack on 9/11 on the World Trade Center, has led to more people trying to buy safety through these cameras. There are a great number of the Surveillance cameras now on Times Square as that is viewed to be the next major target for terrorist attacks. The sales of these systems are now the highest among all types of electronic security products. This fact has come out from the study conducted by Security Sales & Integration, a magazine in Torrance, California.
These cameras are now being made more modern and even more sophisticated. It has become easier to watch people on city streets, in mass transit and even within sports stadiums. They have now been placed on top of many government office buildings, schools and business buildings throughout the country, including Washington DC. It is believed that such installation will cut down crime and ease congestion of traffic. This has also been reflected by drop in road accidents between 3 to 21% in the six cities of California that have adopted this measure, as per the report of that state's auditor. To test out the effectiveness of the cameras, they were switched off for sometime and with this the accidents at the intersections climbed back. These studies are gradually forcing others to adopt this technology. There is increasing progress throughout the world in crime and technology, and this is compelling the officials to depend on video surveillance in increasing numbers for enforcement of laws. (Etzioni, April 27, 2000)
The logic comes from the fact that presence of surveillance cameras makes it easier for the police to catch the criminals. This helps in reduction of crime through both arresting as well as deterring the criminals. This may also be saving money in the long run. These arguments are being commonly accepted especially after the examples just quoted. The supporters are trying to show the high effectiveness of the cameras. The supporters feel that the cameras show as to the criminal who did it. There were initial fears in England over the loss of privacy due to video surveillance, but now the technique has wide public support. (Villa, and Whiting, 19, August 2002).
The method has reduced crime up to 50% in some areas. Many violent criminals are deterred by the simple presence of the camera. This is just the simple fear of being watched, and the criminal knowing that he is being watched. It also helps the general public have a greater sense of being secure through the reassurance of being under surveillance. This effect is greater in areas where people have more fear of becoming victims of violent crime. The feeling of safety and security is essential to the innocent majority who visit these areas. This type of surveillance will make it easier for ambulances, fire engines, security guards and police to move to the troubled areas. (Horne, 1998)
When the locations of these cameras are known, the location of the crime or similar incidents can be found out accurately. Their deterrence of trouble in known trouble spots is known. A number of cameras are placed to watch the fronts of pubs and night clubs. This watch kept the hooligans from causing trouble in these areas. When the cameras are placed in retail stores it deters shoplifting. The costs of shoplifting have to be added to the prices otherwise, and this increases prices to customers. Uses of surveillance cameras in these positions have given reasons for their use. According to the supporters of the use of surveillance cameras, it is only the deficiencies of state law enforcement that causes the video surveillance by public. (Horne, 1998)
These can be solved through the direct purchase of protection by the residents of such areas from private agencies, but the state does not want to ease out the regulations, and is trying instead to pass on the troubles due to its own incapability. There have also been feelings that the use of surveillance cameras would lead to less police brutality. It would also make it easier for the government officers to exercise their First Amendment rights. This of course is dependent on the feeling that the First Amendment gives rights to the law enforcement officials like the ordinary citizens. The right is one of the freedoms of expression, and for this purpose, one will first have to gather information, and these cameras will make it easier for them to collect the information. (Horne, 1998)
The argument for surveillance is that when people know they are being watched, they will stop from committing crime. This is supposed to be simple common sense. This is the logic by which it is argued that cameras will stop crime. But counter argument is that the criminals are not always wise or sane, and because of this they may not possess common sense. The argument against their effectiveness springs from the cases of robberies that occur even when cameras are present, and as an example there is a bank with a camera that was robbed six times. Other arguments highlight the improvement of public morale through the greater sense of security given by the cameras. Some feel that this is probably the greatest benefit of the cameras. (Isnard, 2-3 August 2001)
However counter arguments against this say that this sense of security does not have any solid base to stand on. There is also evidence that the apparent benefits of these surveillance systems disappear after some time, and that the type of crime may change where the surveillance may not be of much use and even the criminals may change. For this it is felt that the effectiveness of cameras in the long-term prevention of crime is doubtful. There a large number of existing studies that support the concept that the benefits of cameras will fade after some time. This is an innovative method and creates an uncertainty in the mind of criminals for some time. These doubts are backed up by the publicity that is given to the new measure as making the crime more risky or difficult. As time goes on, the criminal develops different skills and confidence to successfully commit the crime (Tilley 1999).
In everyday life, there are now cameras which are perched 15 feet above street level in Baltimore. These check every square foot of a six block area in downtown, and help the police to monitor people's activities according to those in favor of using the surveillance cameras. People who support the system say that the watchful eyes of the camera will, in itself, prevent a lot of crime. Even when the crime does occur, the police will immediately know about it and take corrective action. The basic problem is that there must be available staff to watch the monitors. The departments are only placing already busy dispatchers for watching these monitors. The result is that the cameras do little to stop crime and the law-enforcement agencies have taken the decision that their monitoring of the canters is not proving to be cost effective. On the other hand, the private businesses are looking at these cameras to stop employee theft and provide documents for their insurance claims. The law enforcement officials are thus undecided on whether these cameras in public places reduce crimes. It is felt now that these do not stop crimes by themselves. They may discourage the commission of crimes in the area where they are placed, but the same crimes are just committed elsewhere. (Villa, and Whiting, 19, August 2002).
Thus I would support the argument that surveillance cameras are of no use in detecting crime and will not be able to stop crime successfully. The using of video cameras has been stopped by a number of cities due to the absence of any concrete results as also complaints from the general public. In Times Square, expensive surveillance through cameras had been done for 22 months, but according to news reports resulted in only 10 arrests. If this is the case in New York City, then how can the use of already positioned cameras in Shreveport work? Or, for that matter in New Orleans? In Miami Beach they have been given up as ineffective. In the case of London, there was an installation of 150,000 cameras for the reduction of crime. (Isnard, 2-3 August 2001)
In practice, certain incidents of violent crime increased after the installation of the network was finished. This was a costly venture in the United Kingdom and was criticized by the press, academic researchers and some law enforcement authorities. The staff in the studio was…