SOC322 Surveillance methods were introduced mid-1837 and began

Surveillance and Society


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CCTV or Closed Circuit Television is a video surveillance technology.
Sociologist Clive Norris and Gary Armstrong (1999) explain how CCTV is a form
of power that views and controls the activities and actions of people. It is
estimated that there are approximately between 4
million and 5.9 million public facing CCTV surveillance cameras installed across the UK according
to the British Security Industry Association
(BSIA) (REF). According to the 2011
polls, that figure is hugely over estimated and argues that there are only 1.85
million public facing CCTV cameras in the UK (REF). Regardless of the uncertainty of the exact quantity
of CCTV cameras, the figures demonstrate that UK citizens have become
the most watched, catalogued and categorized people in the modern world
(Coleman, 2004, p. 3). The widespread installation of CCTV in UK has, in part,
been the result of proactive initiatives by the central government, with most
of the operations funded by the British Home Office (Philips 1999). Surveillance
in the UK has become embedded into our society as part of our everyday life, we
are complicit to being surveyed and we all actively engage in surveillance, as
a result, we live in a surveillance culture.  

of Surveillance
Surveillance methods were introduced mid-1837 and began with traditional
methods. Civil registration of every individual in England required certificates
to be issued and records to be kept of every birth, death and marriage across
the UK. Other forms of traditional surveillance include telephone wiretaps and
police informants. Traditional surveillance such
as the ones listed are usually carried out through close observation and
commonly of a suspected person or of someone behaving suspiciously. Since then,
technological advancements have enabled us to further develop more effective methods
of surveillance, these methods are vast and include but are not limited to finger
printing, facial recognition CCTV cameras and biometric passports. As a result
of technological advancements and the multitude of ways in which we are now under
surveillance, an extortionate quantity of information is being collected and
stored about each individual living in the UK. CCTV
is an example of the technological advancements which saw an abundance of CCTV systems
in the UK being deployed in town centres, banks, shopping centres, parking
facilities, building societies, industrial estates, schools, colleges, and
police custody suites among many other areas. (Philips 1999).

Origins of Surveillance
In the 1960’s, the Metropolitan police used 2 CCTV cameras which were
temporarily placed in Trafalgar Square for
the purpose of monitoring the crowds during the visit of the Thai royal family in London (REF).
During 1985 in Bournemouth, the first fixed open street CCTV
surveillance system was installed and this led to additional trials of CCTV throughout
the decade (REF). It is documented that in 1987, installation of fixed CCTV
cameras in King’s Lynn, Norfolk began and was the first fixed CCTV installation
by a local government in the UK, their motive for this was to monitor behaviour
in public places and deter crime. In 1994, the home office deeming the trial
period a success released this statement, “CCTV: Looking Out For You,”
confirming that CCTV was going to remain and expand for the interest of public
safety(REF). The government implemented more CCTV surveillance, believing it
was the answer to the rising crime rates in Britain which occurred during the

Welsh and Farrington (2009) gave a recent review and analysis on the
effectiveness of CCTV on crime in public spaces. He evaluated forty-four cases
and the results showed that CCTV caused 16% decrease in crime. The research was
motivated by the quest to measure the effectiveness of CCTV schemes in car
parks, which caused a 51% decrease in car park crime. CCTV schemes in most
other public areas had a small but non-significant impact on crime with a 7%
decrease in the city centres. Public transport schemes had greater effects with
a 23% decrease in total. Conclusively, the evaluation showed that CCTV Schemes
in the United Kingdom were proving to be effective in deterring crime (REF).

History of CCTV and Crime
CCTV quickly became closely associated with crime following the murder of James
Bulger. James age just 24months was taken from a shopping centre in Merseyside,
England on February 12th 1993. CCTV footage revealed two ten-year-old boys, later
identified as Jon Venebals and Robert Thompson, leading the toddler away from
the shopping centre. The images from the CCTV which captured the young boys
taking the toddler were released and this shocked the nation. Although
ineffective in preventing the murder, the CCTV footage played a detrimental
role when it was used as evidence in the trial, identifying the 2 perpetrators.
Prior to the trial, the CCTV footage assisted the police in narrowing down
their suspects during their investigation, the images made it clear that they
were looking for 2 young boys rather than adult males or females. Following
this case, arguments against CCTV on the grounds of invasion of privacy were
silenced and the public supported the use of CCTV in public places. The
horrific case of James Bulger introduced the need for more CCTV across major
towns and cities. Blair’s New Labour used CCTV to develop an image of being
‘tough on crime’ and moved away from previous accusations of being soft on
crime and anti-police as they had been in the 1970s and 1980s (Reiner 1992
quoted in McCahill and Norris 2002a). Central Government instigated the growth
of CCTV in the UK by making funding available for local areas to bid for CCTV
capital grants. Funding initially came from the CCTV challenge competition run
between 1994 and 1999 that made £38.5 million available and this was allocated
across 585 schemes nationwide (Home Office, 2007).

It is believed that CCTV surveillance plays a major part in situational crime
prevention, which is a strategy that Clarke summarizes as the science and art
of decreasing the amount of opportunities for crime (Clarke 1983;225) by
evoking a change in the behaviour of offenders. This theory suggests that the
process of integrating methods known as target hardening which includes installing
high security locks, fitting alarms and installing CCTV could cause potential offenders
not to commit a crime (REF). As a result of this, CCTV reduces offenders’
opportunities to commit crimes as they are aware that they are potentially being
watched and therefore more likely to be caught. The majority of CCTV systems
rely on the deterrent effect of the cameras to prevent criminal behaviour, but
the deterrent is often symbolic and more or less an incompetent deterrent
because although cameras are highly visible, those under surveillance are
scarcely observed by an operator due to irregular monitoring or even deployment
of dummy cameras’ (Hempel and Topfer, 2004).


Jeremy Bentham in the late 18th century developed
the concept of the panopticon; The basic setup of Bentham’s panopticon was a
central tower surrounded by cells. In the central tower is the watchman and in the
cells are prisoners, emphasising the importance that the surveiller cannot be seen but
the target of power (inmates) are visible. The
people in the cells, are unable to see the watchman, and therefore have to
assume that they are always under observation. As a result of this, it
was understood that the inmates develop self-surveillance by regulating and
controlling their own behaviour. Using this model, it enables the source of
power to be made invisible. Michel Foucault and
his adaption of the panopticon; revitalised interest in the panopticon in his
1975 book Discipline and Punish. He describes the prisoner of a
panopticon as being at the receiving end of asymmetrical surveillance: “He is
seen, but he does not see; he is an object of information, never a subject in
communication.” As a metaphor, the panopticon
was commandeered in the latter half of the 20th century as a way to trace the
surveillance tendencies of disciplinarian societies (Gaurdian). Surveillance in
modern society keeps the key principle of the central watch tower described in
Bentham’s panopticon, citizens are unaware if they are being observed by the
many surveillance cameras installed across our country, however they still continue
to adapt their behaviours assuming that they are. CCTV can therefore be
acknowledged as an electronic panopticon (Ainley, in Munt, 2001:90).

Modern CCTV cameras allow the operator (or the “watcher”) to access a live
stream of what the camera is viewing. Monitoring people’s behaviour in real
time allows the watcher to be aware of suspicious behaviour and as a result
makes it possible to act towards preventing a crime which has not yet happened.
This may occur in public car parks, if the operator of the camera is viewing
behaviour which they believed is suspicious such as someone looking through
multiple car windows, they are able to follow the movement of the potential offender
and put in place precautions, this may involve alerting local authorities such
as the police or informing the car park attendant so they can take appropriate

CCTV and Policing
The use of CCTV by the Police is primarily for evidence collection and to aid
them in their investigations. For example, if there has been a string of
commercial burglaries, they may choose to access and view all CCTV cameras in
the local area rather than using the footage from only the targeted shops,
doing this may help them to create a timeline of events and track the
perpetrator to their last known location. Following on from this, the police
can use the CCTV footage to assist in a prosecution. Effective CCTV schemes are
an invaluable source of crime detection and evidence for the police, this is
supported by the statistics from 2009, which declared that 95% of Scotland Yard
murder cases used CCTV footage as evidence (
Automatic Number Plate Recognition systems (ANPR) are specialised high-tech
CCTV cameras used by the police to help detect,
deter and disrupt criminality at a local, regional and national level (REF). This
surveillance works by reading the registration plate from a vehicle once it passes
an ANPR camera, the information is then instantly checked against police records
for vehicles of interest and the Driving and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA)
database. This then gives police officers the necessary information needed to intercept
and stop a potentially offending driver, check the vehicle and should it be
necessary, make arrests.

A review of ANPR released in 2013 by the Association of chief police officers
published that

“ANPR can increase the efficiency of the police in terms of crime prevention,
crime detection, counter terrorism and road safety, enabling forces to maintain
and assist in improving force performance. The use of ANPR can lead to early
resolution of serious cases and reduce costs.”

Is CCTV an Effective Crime Deterrent?
Organised criminals can easily manipulate themselves and their environment to
avoid being detected on CCTV. These criminals are commonly experienced and have
practices to avoid being identified and or detected. They may do this by changing
their appearance, identifying the cameras and committing the crime where they
cannot be seen in blind spot areas or they may set up a distraction which can
be seen by the operator of the camera allowing the attention to be diverted
from themselves.  

A study conducted in Birmingham town centre, found CCTV to have no overall impact
on deterring crime. The study showed a small reduction was noticed in theft of
motor vehicles, whilst robbery and assault with wounding increased marginally and
dramatic increases were identified in theft from motor vehicles (Brown,1994

Gill and Loveday interviewed 77 convicted male offenders across 5 prisons. Amongst
those interviewed, a vast majority did not worry about CCTV but there was evidence
that some offenders chose to take precautions by wearing clothes that hid their
identity or offended in camera blind spots. Many of the offenders interviewed
admitted to committing ‘swift offences’ as they thought that police notified by
the cameras would not arrive in time to arrest them. A total of 32 (41.5%) of the offenders discussed
an offense that had taken place in a location where CCTV was fitted; however, only
2 of these offenders believed that the CCTV had made their crime more difficult
to commit.

However, for opportunistic criminals without the experienced criminal knowledge
of organised crime, CCTV may deter them from committing the crime. Rational
choice theory follows from Bentham’s Panopticon, the threat of surveillance
causes offenders to police their own behaviour, to actively engage in self-surveillance.
Coleman and Moynihan say that rational choice theory looks at “the way in which
offenders make decisions about offending in particular situations” (Coleman
& Motnihan, 1996: 139 cited in Hughes, 1998: 62). A potential offender may
rationally think about committing a crime and in doing so, weigh up the risks
involved. A visible CCTV camera can sway a potential offender’s decision of
committing a crime as the visibility of the camera means that the risk of
getting caught is higher. Regardless of whether the camera’s operator is
watching, the possibility that they are being watched in that moment is the
deterrent, and this is what produces self-surveillance behaviour.

It has been suggested that fixed CCTV cameras could
evoke change in an area effected by crime, the different ways this can be done are
as follows:

Caught in
the act – CCTV could reduce crime by
increasing the likelihood that the offender will be caught and punished and
therefore acts as a deterrent.

You’ve been framed – Deterring potential offenders who will not want to be observed by CCTV
operators or have evidence against them captured on camera.

Nosey Parker – reduction could take place because more natural
surveillance is encouraged, the offender may be seen as more people use the
area covered by CCTV. Using natural surveillance, the offender may have fewer
escape routes due to the physical features of their environment. This may deter
offenders who fear an increased risk of apprehension.

deployment – CCTV can result in an effective presence of security
staff and police officers to locations where suspicious behaviour is occurring.
Their presence may deter offenders, or may mean they are caught in the act.

General publicity – may assist in

Specific publicity – cameras or signs
show people are taking crime seriously

Time for crime – CCTV may have less of an impact on crimes that can be
done quickly as opposed to those that take a longer time, as offenders assume
that they will have enough time to avoid the cameras, or to escape from police
officers and security staff.

Memory jogging – publicity about CCTV encourages potential victims to
be more security conscious and to take precautionary measures
Appeal to the cautious – those who are more security minded use the areas with CCTV
(Tilley, 1993,
quoted in Gill and Spriggs, 2005)

Safety and Fear
CCTV has shown to be an effective tool in reducing crime and studies show that
CCTV makes the public feel safer.

Webster (1996) identified a rising ‘fear of
crime’ to the widespread installation of CCTV across Britain. Within his
theory, Webster (1996) argues that ” CCTV has been accredited with
mythical powers in reducing crime and the fear of crime, and thus with creating
a ‘feel good factor’ amongst the general public” (p255).

Spriggs, Argomaniz, Gill and Bryan (2005) conducted a series of
pre-intervention public attitude surveys across towns and city centres who were
in the process of installing fixed CCTV. An overwhelming 94% of respondents
indicated they would be happy to see cameras installed in the town centre, and
when giving their reasons for supporting the use of CCTV, the most frequent
response across samples included in the study was that it made the respondent
feel safer.

Finally, North Lanarkshire CCTV Ltd (2002) conducted a survey across five town
centres consisting of a sample of 750 residents. When asked if the CCTV cameras
had made a difference in deterring crime and anti-social behaviour 53% said
‘ yes’ and 32% said ‘ sometimes’. Alongside this, 78% of
respondents felt they would be less likely to become a victim of crime in an
area where CCTV was present.

Overwhelmingly, the results from all the above studies would
appear to conclude that the installation of CCTV undoubtedly has the appeal to
increase public feelings of safety.

Social Sorting
David Lyon has carried out extensive research and put many theories into place
regarding modern surveillance, a recent and still developing theory is social
sorting. Lyon believes that it is not labour intensive methods such as book
keeping, but computers and code which enables us to sort one group from another
so they may be treated differently (REF). Consequences of social sorting are isolation, segregation and marginalization. Personal details
from our past behaviours determine if we end up on a list which may include
stereotypes of race, religion, faith, nationality and gender, we then may
become defined as “target markets or part of a “risky population”. Lyon
identifies that advanced surveillance is used to predict and pre-empt
behaviours, the problem with this is that it can easily impact on an individual
and result in social exclusion and discrimination. The surveillance systems
used within our surveillance culture, obtain personal and group data in order
to classify people and populations according to varying criteria, to determine
who should be targeted for special treatment, suspicion, eligibility, inclusion
and access. (REF). Social sorting can be seen in the well-known example of post
11 September 2001 after the “terrorist” attacks, many feared that individuals
fitting a “Arab” or “Muslim” backgrounds would be profiled at the airports or
border checkpoints (Lyon 2001).

CCTV is strengthened by intelligent systems capable of facial recognition
(Norris and Armstrong 1999). In 2000 Florida held the annual super bowl, the
turnstiles were monitored by facial recognition CCTV systems, a test-run by a
camera system company, to demonstrate the capabilities of the machines (Slevin
2001). Amongst the 100,000 plus images of those entering the stadium, 19
matches were made using the stored images on data bases of known offenders. Sophisticated
CCTV systems like this, may be used to follow people from street to street if
they are of interest to the operators. This is an example of how it is possible
to target individuals through social sorting. (REF)

From Public to Private Space
Over recent years, CCTV has branched out of public space as we have welcomed
video recording surveillance into our private space for personal use, we are
actively engaging in the surveillance culture through our behaviours such as
installing domestic surveillance in our homes and using dash cams in our cars.

Gerrard is the lead PERSON on CCTV issues for
the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO). Mr Gerrard and Mr Thompson believe
there is an estimated 1.7 million privately owned CCTV cameras in the UK. The
government are very clear that anyone with a domestic camera must be aware that
if their camera(s) captures images outside the confines of their household,
those images are subject to the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA). They
also encourage you to inform your
neighbour(s) about your system and to put up a
notice informing people that recording is taking place. They emphasise that your
cameras must not intrude on your neighbour’s property as this could mean that
you will not be complying with the DPA and insist that you regularly
delete the recordings.
In relation to
the earlier discussion of Rational choice theory, the method of using domestic
cameras works as an effective surveillance, as unless it is recognised as a
‘dummy’ camera from an experienced criminal, the possibility that the potential
offender is being monitored acts as the deterrent. Simply, the risk outweighs
the benefit. 


cams were originally launched to protect drivers against fraudulent insurance
claims and to determine who’s at fault for accidents, but today they’re being
used in cooperation with the police to catch dangerous drivers in the act. North
Wales Police became the first Police force in the UK to create a system for the
public to send video footage of appalling driving caught on camera by dash
cams. Over 100 clips have been uploaded to the
new database and 80 penalties have been issued in the first six months of
Operation Snap. 

It is estimated that there are 750,000 CCTV
cameras installed in “sensitive locations”
such as schools, hospitals and care homes. ( ).  The expanding
use of surveillance cameras in today’s society in locations such as these has led
to more privacy issues being raised and more people feeling that there are
issues of mistrust. It is almost a certainty that we are unaware of who is
viewing the images of us on CCTV, it is even more uncertain of whether the
footage of us will be used inappropriately and it is understandable why surveillance
used in sensitive locations in this way can be perceived to be incredibly
intrusive and leave the ‘watched’ feeling vulnerable.

JPublic feeling
L2 criminals
acknowledged CCTV may have become a problem when offending – 77 study
J Policing rely
heavily on CCTV and the active engagement from the public
L Birmingham study
showed that cctv didn’t effect stats
J Rational choice
theory policing own behaviour

It is uncertain to definitely argue a case for cctv being thoroughlt effective
in deterring crime or for cctv having no effect in deterring crime.

Location, type of offender and type of crime appear to play a role in whether a
criminal will be dettered

However, we can say that the UK has become the most watched due to CCTV, and
although this ….. it has also resulted in fears of privacy and contributing the
discriminatory behaviours of social sorting. 


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