Drs Brandon Welsh, David Farrington, and SCCJ doctoral candidate Sema Taheri have published “Effectiveness and Social Costs of Public Area Surveillance for Crime Prevention” in the Annual Review of Law and Social Science.
Video surveillance, or closed-circuit television (CCTV), has become a highly popular and prevalent method of preventing crime in public space in many countries across the world. Although it often dominates the policy focus, questions have been raised about its effectiveness and social costs, as well as how it compares to alternative surveillance measures. A theoretical and programmatic understanding of surveillance draws attention to other widely used surveillance measures that perform a crime prevention function in public places. These include improved street lighting, security guards, place managers (e.g., bus drivers and parking lot attendants), and defensible space (i.e., changes to the built environment). This article reviews the research evidence on the effectiveness of the full range of public area surveillance measures and examines related social costs. It also serves to broaden the view of public area surveillance beyond the current narrow focus on CCTV.