The effect of public surveillance cameras on crime clearance rates

Abstract

Much research has examined the crime reduction benefits of public closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras, suggesting that cameras may not deter enough crime to justify their cost. Another benefit of CCTV though is its utility in investigations and in clearing cases, which has been much less studied. Using the data of public surveillance cameras and case clearances in Dallas, Texas, along with a pre-post-research design, we examine the efficacy that public CCTV cameras increase case clearance rates. We find that cases closer to cameras did have an increased clearance rate after the cameras were installed. But the effects faded quite quickly in space and were mostly limited to thefts. While our estimates here suggest the cameras are likely not cost-effective in terms of increasing clearances, it suggests there is potential to be more targeted in camera placement that might provide better justification for their (limited) use.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Figure 1
Figure 2
Figure 3
Figure 4
Figure 5

Notes

  1. 1.

    Automated knot selection algorithms, like that in Wood et al. (2016), tended to select knots far outside the distances of interest (e.g. the first knot being around 5000 feet away). Thus, it makes more sense to a priori set knot locations to the area of most interest for the study design.

References

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

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Baskin, D., & Sommers, I. (2010). The influence of forensic evidence on the case outcomes of homicide incidents. Journal of Criminal Justice, 38(6), 1141–1149.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Baskin, D., & Sommers, I. (2011). Solving residential burglaries in the United States: The impact of forensic evidence on case outcomes. International Journal of Police Science & Management, 13(1), 70–86.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Bell, M. C. (2016). Situational trust: How disadvantaged mothers reconceive legal cynicism. Law & Society Review, 50(2), 314–347.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Bennett, T., & Gelsthorpe, L. (1996). Public attitudes towards CCTV in public places. Studies on Crime and Crime Prevention, 5(1), 72–90.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Bergtold, J. S., Yeager, E. A., & Featherstone, A. M. (2016). Inferences from logistic regression models in the presence of small samples, rare events, nonlinearity, and multicollinearty with observational data. Journal of Applied Statistics, 45(3), 528–546.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Black, D. (1976). The Behavior of Law. Academic Press.

  8. Borg, M. J., & Parker, K. F. (2001). Mobilizing law in urban areas: The social structure of homicide clearance rates. Law & Society Review, 35(2), 435–466.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Braga, A. A., & Dusseault, D. (2018). Can homicide detectives improve homicide clearance rates? Crime & Delinquency, 64(3), 283–315.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Briggs, S., & Opsal, T. (2012). The influence of victim ethnicity on arrest in violent crimes. Criminal Justice Studies, 25(2), 177–189.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Brookman, F., & Jones, H. (2021). Capturing killers: The construction of CCTV evidence during homicide investigations. Policing & Society Online First.

    Google Scholar 

  12. Brunson, R. K., & Wade, B. A. (2019). Oh hell no, we don’t talk to police: Insights on the lack of cooperation in police investigations of urban gun violence. Criminology & Public Policy, 18(3), 623–648.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Bynum, T. S., Cordner, G. W., & Greene, J. R. (1982). Victim and offense characteristics: Impact on police investigative decision-making. Criminology, 20(3 & 4), 301–318.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Campbell, D. T., & Stanley, J. C. (2015). Experimental and quasi-experimental designs for research. Ravenio Books.

  15. Carr, P. J., Napolitano, L., & Keating, J. (2007). We never call the cops and here is why: A qualitative examination of legal cynicism in three Philadelphia neighborhoods. Criminology, 45(2), 445–480.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Circo, G., & McGarrell, E. (2020). Estimating the impact of an integrated CCTV program on crime. Journal of Experimental Criminology., 17(1), 129–150.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Clarke, R. V. G. (1997). Situational crime prevention. Criminal Justice Press Monsey.

  18. Cook, P. J., Braga, A. A., Turchan, B. S., & Barao, L. M. (2019). Why do gun murders have a higher clearance rate than gunshot assaults? Criminology & Public Policy, 18(3), 525551.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Cordner, G. W. (1989). Police agency size and investigative effectiveness. Journal of Criminal Justice, 17(3), 145–155.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Coupe, R. T. (2016). Evaluating the effects of resources and solvability on burglary detection. Policing and Society, 26(5), 563–587.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Coupe, T., & Kaur, S. (2005). The role of alarms and CCTV in detecting non-residential burglary. Security Journal, 18(2), 53–72.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Ditton, J. (2000). Public attitudes towards open-street CCTV in Glasgow. British Journal of Criminology, 40, 692–709.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Gelman, A., & Hill, J. (2006). Data analysis using regression and multilevel/hierarchical models. Cambridge university press.

  24. Gerell, M. (2020). CCTV in deprived neighborhoods – a short-time follow-up of effects on crime and crime clearance. Nordic Journal of Criminology Online First.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  25. Gill, M., & Spriggs, A. (2005). Assessing the impact of CCTV. Home Office Research.

  26. Gill, M., Bryan, J., & Allen, J. (2007). Public perceptions of CCTV in residential areas: “It is not as good as we thought it would be.”. International Criminal Justice Review, 17(4), 304–324.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Goold, B. J. (2002). Privacy rights and public spaces: CCTV and the problem of the “unobservable observer.”. Criminal Justice Ethics, 21(1), 21–27.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Gottfredson, M. R., & Hindelang, M. J. (1979). A study of the behavior of law. American Sociological Review, 44(1), 3–18.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Harrell, F. E. (2015). Regression modeling strategies: With applications to linear models, logistic and ordinal regression, and survival analysis (2nd ed.). Springer.

  30. Honess, T., & Charman, E. (1992). Closed circuit television in public places: Its acceptability and perceived effectiveness. Home Office Police Dept.

  31. Hummel, J., & Wiseman, P. S. (2008). Non-inferiority studies with binary endpoint: Analysis with adjustment for covariates. PSI/EFSPI annual conference, 20.

  32. Hunt, P. E., Saunders, J., & Kilmer, B. (2019). Estimates of law enforcement costs by crime type for benefit-cost analyses. Journal of benefit-cost analysis, 10(1), 95–123.

  33. Jang, Y., Kim, D., Park, J., & Kim, D. (2018). Conditional effects of open-street closed-circuit television. International Journal of Law, Crime and Justice, 53, 9–24.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Kirk, D. S., & Matsuda, M. (2011). Legal cynicism, collective efficacy, and the ecology of arrest. Criminology, 49(2), 443–472.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Kutateladze, B. L., Lawson, V. Z., & Andiloro, N. R. (2015). Does evidence really matter? An exploratory analysis of the role of evidence in plea bargaining in felony drug cases. Law and Human Behavior, 39(5), 431–442.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. La Vigne, N. G., Lowry, S. S., Markman, J. A., & Dwyer, A. M. (2011). Evaluating the use of public surveillance cameras for crime control and prevention. Urban Institute.

  37. Lim, H., & Wilcox, P. (2017). Crime-reduction effects of open-street CCTV: Conditionality considerations. Justice Quarterly, 34(4), 597–626.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Lin, P.-H., & van Gulijk, C. (2014). Cost-benefit analysis of surveillance technologies. In T. Nowakowski, M. Młyńczak, A. Jodejko-Pietruczuk, & S. Werbińska-Wojciechowska (Eds.), Safety and Reliability: Methodology and Applications (pp. 409–415). CRC Press.

  39. Lippert, R. (2009). Signs of the surveillant assemblage: Privacy regulation, urban CCTV, and governmentality. Social & Legal Studies, 18(4), 505–522.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. McEwen, T., & Regoeczi, W. (2015). Forensic evidence in homicide investigations and prosecutions. Journal of Forensic Sciences, 60(5), 1188–1198.

  41. Mize, T. (2019). Best practices for estimating, interpreting, and presenting nonlinear interaction effects. Sociological Science, 6, 81–117.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. Möllers, N., & Hälterlein, J. (2013). Privacy issues in public discourse: The case of “smart” CCTV in Germany. Innovation: The European Journal of Social Sciences, 26(1/2), 57–70.

    Google Scholar 

  43. Mood, C. (2010). Logistic regression: Why we cannot do what we think we can do, and what we can do about it. European Sociological Review, 26(1), 67–82.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  44. Moran, P. A. (1950). Notes on continuous stochastic phenomena. Biometrika, 37(1/2), 17–23.

  45. Morgan, A., & Dowling, C. (2019). Does CCTV help police solve crime? Trends & Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice, 576, 1–16.

    Google Scholar 

  46. Nivette, A. E., Eisner, M., Malti, T., & Ribeaud, D. (2015). The social and developmental antecedents of legal cynicism. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 52(2), 270–298.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  47. Paine, C. (2012). Solvability factors in dwelling burglaries in Thames Valley. Master’s Thesis.

  48. Phillips, C. (1999). A review of CCTV evaluations: Crime reduction effects and attitudes towards its use. Crime Prevention Studies, 10(1), 123–155.

    Google Scholar 

  49. Piza, E. L. (2018). The crime prevention effect of CCTV in public places: A propensity score analysis. Journal of Crime and Justice, 41(1), 14–30.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  50. Piza, E. L., Caplan, J. M., & Kennedy, L. W. (2014). Is the punishment more certain? An analysis of CCTV detections and enforcement. Justice Quarterly, 31(6), 1015–1043.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  51. Piza, E. L., Gilchrist, A. M., Caplan, J. M., Kennedy, L. W., & O’Hara, B. A. (2016). The financial implications of merging proactive CCTV monitoring and directed police patrol: A cost–benefit analysis. Journal of Experimental Criminology, 12(3), 403–429.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  52. Piza, E. L., Welsh, B. C., Farrington, D. P., & Thomas, A. L. (2019). CCTV surveillance for crime prevention: A 40-year systematic review with meta-analysis. Criminology & Public Policy, 18(1), 135–159.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  53. Ratcliffe, J. H., & Groff, E. R. (2019). A longitudinal quasi-experimental study of violence and disorder impacts of urban CCTV camera clusters. Criminal Justice Review, 44(2), 148–164.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  54. Ratcliffe, J. H., Taniguchi, T., & Taylor, R. B. (2009). The crime reduction effects of public cctv cameras: A multi-method spatial approach. Justice Quarterly, 26(4), 746–770.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  55. Reeve, R. (2018). Confidence interval of difference of proportions in logistic regression in presence of covariates. Statistical Methods in Medical Research, 27(2), 451–465.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  56. Roberts, A. (2007). Predictors of homicide clearance by arrest: An event history analysis of NIBRS incidents. Homicide Studies, 11(2), 82–93.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  57. Roberts, A. (2008). The influences of incident and contextual characteristics on crime clearance of nonlethal violence: A multilevel event history analysis. Journal of Criminal Justice, 36(1), 61–71.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  58. Robin, L., Peterson, B. E., & Lawrence, D. S. (2021). How do close-circuit television cameras impact crimes and clearances? An evaluation of the Milwaukee police department’s public surveillance system. Police Practice and Research: An International Journal, 22(2), 1171–1190.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  59. Roman, J., & Farrell, G. (2002). Cost-benefit analysis for crime prevention: Opportunity cost, routine savings and crime externalities. Crime Prevention Studies, 14, 53–92.

    Google Scholar 

  60. Sampson, R. J., Raudenbush, S. W., & Earls, F. (1997). Neighborhoods and violent crime: A multilevel study of collective efficacy. Science, 277(5328), 918–924.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  61. Shaw, C. R., & McKay, H. D. (1942). Juvenile delinquency and urban areas. University of Chicago Press.

  62. Spriggs, A., Argomaniz, J., Gill, M., & Bryan, J. (2005a). Public attitudes towards CCTV: Results from the pre-intervention public attitude survey carried out in areas implementing CCTV (No. 635042007–001). Association.

  63. Spriggs, A., Argomaniz, J., Gill, M., & Bryan, J. (2005b). Public attitudes towards CCTV: Results from the pre-intervention public attitude survey carried out in areas implementing CCTV (Online Report No. 635042007–001). Home Office.

  64. Tankebe, J. (2008). Police effectiveness and police trustworthiness in Ghana: An empirical appraisal. Criminology & Criminal Justice, 8(2), 185–202.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  65. Taylor, E. (2010). I spy with my little eye: The use of CCTV in schools and the impact on privacy. The Sociological Review, 58(3), 381–405.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  66. Wellford, C. F., Lum, C., Scott, T., Vovak, H., & Scherer, J. A. (2019). Clearing homicides. Criminology & Public Policy, 18(3), 553–600.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  67. Wells H, Allard T, & Wilson P (2006). Crime and CCTV in Australia: Understanding the relationship (p. 193). Queensland, Australia: Centre for Applied Psychology and Criminology: Bond University

  68. Welsh, B. C., & Farrington, D. P. (2008). Effects of closed circuit television surveillance on crime. Campbell Systematic Reviews, 4(1), 1–73.

    Google Scholar 

  69. Welsh, B. C., & Farrington, D. P. (2009). Public area CCTV and crime prevention: An updated systematic review and meta-analysis. Justice Quarterly, 26(4), 716–745.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  70. Wheeler, A. P. (2019). Allocating police resources while limiting racial inequality (pp. 1–27). Justice Quarterly.

  71. Wilson, D., & Sutton, A. (2004). Watched over or over-watched? Open street CCTV in Australia. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Criminology, 37(2), 211–230.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  72. Wood, S. N., Pya, N., & Saefkan, B. (2016). Smoothing parameter and model selection for general smooth models (with discussion). Journal of the American Statistical Association, 111(516), 1548–1575.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Andrew P. Wheeler.

Additional information

Publisher’s note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Data and Code to Replicate Results is available at https://www.dropbox.com/sh/zoc760m3bhj3y8d/AABv7QtQw1ZpGFJlU0_WJY92a?dl=0.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Jung, Y., Wheeler, A.P. The effect of public surveillance cameras on crime clearance rates. J Exp Criminol (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11292-021-09477-8

Download citation

Keywords

  • CCTV
  • Crime clearance
  • Arrests
  • Deterrence
  • Police technology