Public Surveillance Camera Limits

Public Surveillance Camera Limits

CRJ336 Criminal Investigation

Colorado State University Global

Closed circuit television, more commonly known as CCTV, offers the general public a secure medium in which to monitor, well, pretty much anything that they want. Surveillance cameras are used pretty much everywhere, from our homes to our major roadways, and all for pretty much the same reason: security. When it comes to the cameras that are seen around large shopping centers, outside government buildings, along roadways, at hotels and banks, those are typically maintained by government and law enforcement agencies. The increasing number of surveillance cameras monitoring the public has raised concerns about privacy but law enforcement agencies assert that the increase in cameras leads to a decrease in crime. Criminals are less likely to commit a crime when they know they are under surveillance (Priks, 2015).

In April 2013, the United States suffered the violent Boston Marathon bombing. The terrorist attack caused the deaths of three people and left another 264 with severe injuries. After the tragic event, many believed that such terrorist attacks could have been prevented had there been more surveillance cameras in public places surrounding the Boston Marathon route (Priks, 2015). A perfect example of increased public cameras deterring terrorist attacks is London’s Ring of Steel, a security and surveillance cordon that consists of road barriers, checkpoints and hundreds of CCTV cameras (Sheldon, 2011). These cameras were installed in London’s financial district to deter attacks from the Irish Republican Army (IRA).

The methods implicated in the Ring of Steel to deter attacks did work. After the IRA announced a ceasefire in 1994, several of the security measures that went along with the Ring of Steel were phased out, such as the manned checkpoints and concrete barriers (Sleigh & Prynn, 2016). Since then public surveillance has proven that it is quite effective at solving crime and has become highly valued by investigators. Reports on the matter found “that cases in which the CCTV footage provided to police was assessed as being useful were 25 percent more likely to be

solved than cases where the footage was assessed as not being useful” (Ashby, 2017). Recent research revealed that officers who requested footage captured by CCTV camera was associated with an increase in the likelihood of the case being solved (Morgan & Dowling 2019).

There can be many advantages to implementing increased use of public security cameras, but there are still those who are very concerned with the protection of their privacy. Those who are against the cameras feel that they do violate their privacy. While there have been studies that show that cameras deter crime, there have also been studies that show that they do not deter crime and erode public trust (Neumann, 2019). These concerns are very valid but there are ways to continue implementing public security cameras while ensuring the privacy of citizens. One of these methods is putting more thought into how cameras are positioned. By tilting and adjusting cameras, the field of view that is captured can be focused on specific areas, and away from areas that should remain private, such as private yards and residential areas.

In today’s age of information and technology, the balance between public security and public privacy has been rather unstable. To maintain balance in these areas, there needs to be a collaborative effort from social, legal and technical aspects to create a better balance (Ran, 2016). Raising public awareness on privacy and surveillance can create more conversations that our social norms need to change. Increased education on surveillance will create a more informed public on how to protect their privacy (Ran, 2016). Moreover, a flexible legal framework that works with our ever changing technology can mean better accommodations for public privacy.


Ashby, MPJ (2017). The value of CCTV surveillance cameras as an investigative tool: An empirical analysis. European Journal of Criminal Policy and Research 23(3): 441–459

Morgan, A. & Dowling, C., (2019). Does CCTV help police solve crime? Trends & issues in crime and criminal justice no. 576. Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology.

Neumann, A. (2019). The Right to Be Let Alone. Virginia Quarterly Review, 95(2), 18–19

Priks, M. (2015). The effects of surveillance cameras on crime: Evidence from the Stockholm subway. The Economic Journal, 125(588), 289-305.

Ran, Jing (2016) “Striking the Balance between Privacy and Governance in the Age of Technology,” SPICE: Student Perspectives on Institutions, Choices and Ethics: Vol. 11 : Iss. 1 , Article 2. Retrieved February 8, 2020, from

Sheldon, B. (2011). Camera surveillance within the UK: Enhancing public safety or a social threat? International Review of Law, Computers & Technology, 25(3), 193–203.

Sleigh, S., & Prynn, J. (2016, December 23). ‘Ring of steel’ to be built in the City to protect London from terror attack. Retrieved February 8, 2020, from

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