The CCTV (closed circuit television) in Southwark program primarily aims to reduce crime, including burglary, auto crime, robbery, sexual assault, theft, and vandalism. Secondary aims of the program include reducing fear and improving public/business perceptions of the area.
Four areas were selected for camera installation in the Southwark Borough of
Although the process varied slightly across sites, the local government authority usually partnered with the police and local businesses to decide on the installation of cameras. The costs for installation have generally been split among various combinations of the local governmental council, local commercial interests, and the Home Office (United Kingdom). Maintenance of the system usually is supported by commercial interests and the local council.
The cameras were installed so that they would be clearly visible, to attain their maximum deterrence effect; also, the degree of coverage was considered. The number of cameras installed and their location varied across sites.
- Elephant and Castle has a large shopping center surrounded by arterial roads; it has a high density of transport links. A local community committee determined that camera surveillance would contribute to its attempts to reduce crime and fear of crime. Thirty-four cameras were installed in 1997, with an additional 15 in the shopping center. Six of the external and 12 internal cameras are pan-tilt-and-zoom (PTZ) models.
- Peckham installed CCTV in 1995 to address the area’s development into a hotspot for street robberies and drug dealing. Fourteen PTZ cameras were installed that supplemented the 27 static cameras in the
Cerise Road car park. Cameras are monitored 24 hours a day. They are in a predominantly commercial area.
- Camberwell installed 17 PTZ cameras in the town center in January 1998 to address high levels of street crime. They cover the main arterial routes running through the heart of the commercial area and provide surveillance to about 250 commercial premises and 5,000 square meters of pedestrian routes.
East Street, the site of one of London’s oldest street markets, installed 11 PTZ cameras and 1 fixed camera to help address recent increases in crime levels. It covered about a third of a mile, and included several car parks.
Each area’s control room is governed by a common CCTV code of practice that covers:
- Installation of CCTV
- Tape management
- Maintenance of an incident log book
- Procedures for the police
- Control room management
- Provision of stills
- Monitoring and review of the code of practice
While there may be a common code of practice, control rooms can be operated in different ways. For instance, for the Elephant and Castle site, the control room is located at the shopping center in an area that also functions as the reception area for delivery vehicles. The other areas are monitored from one control room, with three controllers on duty at any time, 24 hours a day.
Police can visit the sites to retrieve tapes for viewing, but sometimes operators view tapes for police. The relationship between the operators and police can vary as well. Some sites have a very proactive relationship between the two. In Elephant and Castle, the police share information with the operators and provide pictures of 10 individuals believed to be currently committing offenses. In the other sites, little intelligence information is shared by the police.
The different environments can affect how the cameras are used and how effective they are. For instance, for the Elephant and Castles site, operators are often notified of suspicious activities by the shopping center floor security guards and can then concentrate on the individuals in question. Problems with images from the Camberwell cameras resulted in part from areas of low lighting. There have also been numerous equipment failures at some of the sites.
Sarno, Hough, and Bulos (1999) found a 10 percent to 12 percent reduction in crime rates in the year following installation compared with pre–CCTV (closed circuit television) levels. Elephant and Castle experienced an 11 percent decline in the first year after installation and a 17 percent decline in crime in the second year, compared with pre–CCTV crime rates. Street crime decreased sharply in the Peckham site in the 2 years following installation. Camberwell experienced a 12 percent decline in the year after CCTV installation. East Street experienced a 10 percent general crime decline in the year following installation. In general, the crimes most affected were burglary, criminal damage, street crime, and vehicle crime. Street crime (in particular, robberies) decreased significantly. The authors were unable to exclude the possibility that these reductions were part of an overall downward trend in crime rates.
Public Safety Perceptions
Fifty-five percent of the public thought crime was reduced; 66 percent of business operators thought crime was down. In all sites, most people (between 53 percent and 69 percent) felt safer post–CCTV installation, though fewer than half felt safe after dark.
The buffer area reductions either matched or exceeded reductions in the target areas.
Additional Qualitative Information
"Lessons learned" identified included: the need to pay attention to the reliability of the equipment, the rather low detection of crime using cameras, and the limited formal training provided to the CCTV controllers about what to look for or what constituted suspicious behavior. In general, public and local business owners’ perceptions of CCTV installation were positive.