Rapidly evolving technology has made video surveillance more advanced, accessible, and prominent than ever. This has brought individuals, communities, and businesses across America great peace of mind. However, it is likely Law Enforcement who is most elated at the progress we have made from CCTV to now remotely managed networks collecting crucial footage every second. Rapidly evolving technology has changed many of the ways that law enforcement agencies operate. The use of video surveillance has drastically changed how law enforcement deters, detects, and prosecutes criminal activity. The use of video surveillance has increased significantly over the last few years, from the use of live monitoring to be in multiple locations at once to automatic license plate readers or facial recognition technology.
Surveillance Systems as a Deterrence
The first step in crime reduction is prevention—stopping crime before it happens. Video surveillance has been shown to deter crime in areas where it is installed. A Campbell Collaboration study found that the presence of video surveillance cameras reduced crime by 51% in parking lots and by 23% in public housing areas. Thieves are usually looking for an easy score, and seeing security measures such as cameras, guards, or motion sensors can be enough to deter an attempt. The UNC Charlotte of Criminal Justice and Criminology found that 60% convicted burglars would look for security cameras beforehand, and 40% said that the presence of security cameras would stop them from proceeding on a target. The presence alone of security cameras helps alleviate law enforcement resources by preventing the number of dispatches and cases.
Video Surveillance: Helping Law Enforcement Detect Crime
Video surveillance can help law enforcement quickly identify suspects and gather evidence. In the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, video surveillance footage helped authorities identify and track the suspects. “Crowd-sourcing, CCTV, thermal imaging cameras — all were used in the investigation”. When the Boston Marathon returned in 2015, the Boston Police Department knew that security and safety were priority number one. Using video surveillance cameras, officers were able to monitor large areas remotely in addition to officers on the ground. Bill Ridge with the Boston Police said, “We’ve got a lot of cameras out there.” He says, “We’re going to be watching the portions in Boston, particularly the routes along Boylston Street, the finish line.” This allowed the LEO to be proactive in containing any situations and ensuring everyone’s safety.
See it to Believe it: Video Evidence in Prosecution
Video surveillance footage is such a valuable piece of evidence for detectives, prosecutors, and even juries and victims. As mentioned, in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, video surveillance aided law enforcement in their investigation. That is becoming increasingly common in both large and small criminal cases across America. In a study conducted by the Urban Institute, prosecutors reported that video evidence was the most valuable type of evidence in helping secure convictions. They noted that cases involving strong video evidence reduced case preparation time due to an increase in the likelihood of a plea deal and less effort to convince a jury in trial. Video footage is helping officers catch suspects, detectives build cases, and attorneys prove guilt, which results in more convictions and fewer criminals on the streets. Video surveillance can also be used to bring justice by proving innocence. In 2018, a video went viral of a woman calling 911 on a 9-year-old boy who she claimed “groped” her in a Brooklyn convenience store. It was the store’s video surveillance that proved the boy’s innocence.
Video surveillance is a valuable resource for law enforcement
Video surveillance is an investment like any other security measure, but the results prove it is worth the cost. Baltimore, Maryland, saw a 30–50% reduction in monthly criminal activity after increasing their video surveillance presence throughout the city. The decrease in criminal activity and prosecution costs saved the city an estimated $1.50 for every dollar spent video surveillance. It is undeniable that video surveillance technology has changed the way detectives and officers do their jobs. From increasing a security presence to deter and prevent crime, to aiding in monitoring and detecting illegal activity across the city in real-time, to aiding investigations and prosecution to put criminals behind bars.