CCTV cameras can cut crime, but they're not perfect
U.K. expert weighs in as Ottawa ponders cameras in ByWard Market
Before the City of Ottawa installs closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras in the ByWard Market, it may want to look at the experience across the pond, where the crime-fighting strategy has been in use for decades, a U.K. expert says.
"I think sometimes the jump to CCTV is a quick one. It sounds as though people would be deterred by seeing images of them committing offences, but I'm afraid there's a lot more to it then that," said Martin Gill, director of Perpetuity Research.
Streets and other public spaces in Great Britain have bristled with security cameras for more than 25 years, ostensibly helping police identify crime suspects. But Gill, whose research has included interviewing criminals who were caught and convicted with the aid of CCTV footage, told CBC's Ottawa Morning the jury's still out on whether the cameras are an effective deterrent.
"Very often, people are caught and shown images of them committing offences, and their reaction is, 'Well, prove it's me,'" Gill said.
CCTV technology may also force crime into areas where the cameras aren't as numerous, Gill said, using the example of one shop with top-quality CCTV technology that saw crime drop, only to see crime rise in neighbouring businesses.
Then there are the privacy concerns, especially as camera quality improves and facial recognition software becomes more available.
The problem with public CCTV cameras is that they record everyone passing by, not just criminals.
"Any security measure, again of which CCTV is just one, needs to be balanced by privacy concerns," Gill cautioned.
With files from CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning