Back in 2002, David Farrington and Brandon Welsh published a study for the UK Home Office which showed that CCTV had only small effects on crime, except in car parks. Now they are back with a study that confirms all that, plus which shows that despite the evidence, more money is spent on CCTV in Britain than on any other single form of crime prevention. So much we knew, but what is a slightly unexpected finding is that CCTV apparently works better in Britain than in other countries. This is not a plus for the UK, rather it shows that in other nations it is even worse value-for-money – and it is clearly not an efficient use of public funds here as currently used. Instead the authors recommend that CCTV should be more narrowly focussed – in other words, we don’t need mass surveillance, we need targeted surveillance At the same time however, more and more money is going into CCTV in the USA in particular, where all the same ‘silver bullet’ arguments are being made as were made in the UK in the 1990s, and have now been shown to be largely unwarranted. The government has now fallen back on populism to justify the continued expansion of CCTV: ‘people want it.’ Well, on that basis, they would bring back public flogging and hanging… it would make rather more sense if they listened to the evidence from the reports they themselves are commissioning.
The full report is available from The Campbell Collaboration library, but there’s a summary in The Guardian today.
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