Monday, September 24, 2007

Better Late Than Never

City Councilor Dave Norris has announced his intention to vote against a proposed $300,000 appropriation to install so-called "anti-crime" cameras in downtown Charlottesville.

On his blog, Norris points to a British study highlighted on that states that these cameras, ubiquitous in London and other UK cities, are virtually useless.

I could have told you that.

In fact, I did -- more than two-and-a-half years ago, in a blogpost entitled, "Ubiquitous TV Cameras Don't Reduce Crime, UK Study Says," and published on February 24, 2005.

That post quoted an AP story that reported:

Video cameras have blossomed in Britain since the 1990s. An estimated 4.2 million cameras now observe the country's 60 million people going about their everyday business, from getting on a bus to lining up at the bank to driving around London. It's widely estimated that the average Briton is scrutinized by 300 cameras a day.

For the Home Office-funded study, academics from the University of Leicester studied 14 closed-circuit TV systems in a variety of settings, including town centers, parking lots, hospitals and residential areas. Only the parking lot scheme was shown to cause a fall in crime.

Previous studies of the effectiveness of closed-circuit TV systems have come to similar conclusions.
Those "similar conclusions" are echoed in the London Evening Standard article found by Waldo Jaquith and linked from
London has 10,000 crime-fighting CCTV cameras which cost £200 million, figures show today.

But an analysis of the publicly funded spy network, which is owned and controlled by local authorities and Transport for London, has cast doubt on its ability to help solve crime.

A comparison of the number of cameras in each London borough with the proportion of crimes solved there found that police are no more likely to catch offenders in areas with hundreds of cameras than in those with hardly any.

In fact, four out of five of the boroughs with the most cameras have a record of solving crime that is below average.

The figures were obtained by the Liberal Democrats on the London Assembly using the Freedom of Information Act.
(Politicians and bureaucrats hate it, but we citizens have got to love FOIA.)

Let's hope the other four city councilors follow the lead of Dave Norris and vote against this boondoggle before it's too late.

Now if only we could get rid of that useless transit center on the downtown mall and return the money to the taxpayers ...


Elizabeth said...

I wonder -- after the release of the finding that the cameras are not reducing crime, were any of the London cameras deactivated or removed? My guess is no.

Sean Tubbs said...

At the Fry's Spring Neighborhood Candidates Forum, David Brown said he would vote against the proposal. The response came in response to Question 11 from Colette Hall of the North Downtown Neighborhood Association about what could be cut from the budget. You can hear all of their responses at Charlottesville Tomorrow.