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Wednesday, 14 August, 2002, 14:35 GMT 15:35 UK
CCTV 'not a crime deterrent'
Monitoring room
Critics say effectiveness of CCTV is "overstated"
CCTV is not as useful in the fight against crime as was previously thought, according to government research.

The cameras, which have been placed at the heart of crime prevention policy, may be more effective as a detection tool than as a deterrent, researchers found.

The report - which looked at evaluations of 22 CCTV schemes in Britain and the US - found that while cameras could have a marked effect on reducing vehicle crime, there was little evidence they prevented violent crime.

Spending on CCTV accounts for three-quarters of the money available for crime prevention. Some 170m has been allocated to them for the period 1999-2003.

The Home Office-commissioned report said: "Overall, it can be concluded that CCTV reduces crime to a small degree.

The growth of CCTV
1990 - Three town centre schemes with 100 cameras
1994 - 16 town centre schemes with 400 cameras
1994 - 1997 Home Office gives 38m to fund 585 CCTV schemes
1997 - 167 schemes with more than 5,200 cameras
1996 - 1998 CCTV accounts for more than three-quarters of total crime prevention spending
1999 - 2003 170m made available for CCTV
"An evidence-based approach to crime prevention which uses the highest level of science available offers the strongest formula for building a safer society.

A second report on the impact of street lighting considered 13 schemes, and concluded that better illumination could be a cheap way of cutting illegal activity, especially in crime hotspots.

Home Office minister John Denham said the study confirmed "that the government has got it right in using a package of crime prevention measures to tackle crime and the fear crime".

"Increasingly CCTV plays an important role not just in deterring crime, but in detecting it," he added.

"We will continue to evaluate how we can make best use of CCTV and street lighting, whether it's to reduce fear of crime for the public or to provide valuable evidence for the police."

At the end of June a report by the National Association for the Criminal Rehabilitation of Offenders (NACRO) said cameras had little effect on crimes against the person, including assault.

Camera caution

It said CCTV was more useful for preventing property crime, including car theft and burglary.

The Nacro report warned against over-investing in the cameras at the expense of "more effective measures" such as street lights.

Rachel Armitage, of its crime and social policy unit, said: "It would be foolish to claim that well planned CCTV can never have an impact but the effectiveness of CCTV is often overstated."

See also:

28 Jun 02 | UK
29 Apr 02 | N Ireland
28 Jun 02 | England
07 Feb 02 | Science/Nature
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