Expect More Surveillance Cameras in City Streets

Canadian and American cities will likely increase their use of closed circuit TV (CCTV) in their transportation systems in the wake of the London bombings, despite evidence that surveillance systems do not always or even regularly reduce or deter crime, says Dr. Sean Hier of the University of Victoria’s department of sociology. “Few people would contest the significance of comprehensive public CCTV surveillance systems in tracking perpetrators of violent acts,” he says. “The problem with CCTV, like all surveillance technologies, is that it is implemented for one purpose, but then ends up getting used for many other reasons.” Hier adds that the Vancouver police recently rejected a proposal for a CCTV system based on its limited ability to prevent crime in Britain, but the city of Hamilton, Ontario, introduced a public system in May.
Research shows that surveillance systems deter certain kinds of crime and usually only in contained spaces. Research also suggests that improved street lighting is often a more effective crime deterrent. Despite this, Hier expects more large cities to intensify their CCTV systems “not because they deter or prevent crime, but because they’ve proven effective in follow-up investigations in London, and because they provide a sense of safety and security to citizens.” Hier leads a research team focusing on understanding how video surveillance comes to be accepted as a viable solution to various perceived social problems. Currently, at least 12 Canadian cities run some sort of public CCTV surveillance.

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Media contacts

Dr. Sean Hier (Sociology) at (250) 721-6690 or shier@uvic.ca

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