Police-monitored CCTV cameras in Newark, NJ: A quasi-experimental test of crime deterrence

Abstract

We present a test of the crime-deterrent effect of police-monitored street-viewing CCTV cameras using viewsheds of areas that were visible by cameras via direct line-of-sight and that were digitized using easily replicable methods, Google Maps, and standard GIS tools. A quasi-experimental research design, using camera installation sites and randomly selected control sites, assessed the impact of CCTV on the crimes of shootings, auto thefts, and thefts from autos in Newark, NJ, for 13 months before and after camera installation dates. Strategically-placed cameras were not any different from randomly-placed cameras at deterring crime within their viewsheds; there were statistically significant reductions in auto thefts within viewsheds after camera installations; there were significant improvements to location quotient values for shootings and auto thefts after camera installations. There was no significant displacement and there was a small diffusion of benefits, which was greater for auto thefts than shootings. The system of cameras in Newark is not as efficient as it could be at deterring certain street crimes; some camera locations are significantly more effective than others. Results of a system-wide evaluation of CCTV cameras should not be the only basis for endorsing or contesting the use of CCTV cameras for crime control or prevention within a city. Future research should test whether the effectiveness of CCTV cameras are dependent upon the micro-level attributes of environments within which they are installed.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    Other than press releases and media reports, there was no official advertising, such as signage, associated with the installation of cameras that were aimed at aiding deterrence.

  2. 2.

    Six cameras were physically damaged or otherwise broken and out of commission for long periods of time and, therefore, excluded from this study.

  3. 3.

    One might argue that control sites should be places with similar problems to the experimental sites. Though a simple statement, this would require a complex methodological endeavor. As discussed in the “Discussion and conclusion” section, and consistent with place-based criminological theories, "places" are defined by more than the problems that emerge there. Crime problems, for instance, are only one of many attributes of places that could influence the effectiveness of CCTV cameras. Identifying all other environmental, social, and/or criminogenic attributes of places where cameras are installed can be a separate study in itself—to typify these places and quantify the significant similarities and differences they have with respect to all other places in Newark. Future research can look at these siting typologies and the characteristics and qualities of the CCTV viewshed places of each experimental camera (such as for the purposes of statistically commensurate matching), but that task was beyond the scope of this project. The next best option was to select random locations as control sites, as we did here.

  4. 4.

    Control viewsheds are systematically comparable to experimental viewsheds only with regard to the methods and parameters used to create them.

  5. 5.

    The net effect (NE) formula is (Response Before/Control Before) Minus (Response After/Control After).

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Acknowledgements

This study was funded in part by the Rutgers Center on Public Security. Special thanks to Eric Piza and the Newark Police Department for in-kind support and for providing access to data and other police resources.

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Correspondence to Joel M. Caplan.

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Caplan, J.M., Kennedy, L.W. & Petrossian, G. Police-monitored CCTV cameras in Newark, NJ: A quasi-experimental test of crime deterrence. J Exp Criminol 7, 255–274 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11292-011-9125-9

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Keywords

  • Camera
  • CCTV
  • Crime
  • Deterrence
  • Police
  • Public surveillance
  • Viewshed