CCTV For Fire Forensic


Closed-circuit television (CCTV) surveillance cameras are widely used in policing, but that use is controversial. The United Kingdom (UK) government has described CCTV as “vital” for detecting offenders (Porter 2016), while the Washington, DC, Metropolitan Police Department (2007, p 2) argued that it is often “invaluable to police investigations”.

On the other side of the debate, the campaign group (Liberty 2016) argued that extensive use of CCTV “poses a threat to our way of life” and that “widespread visual surveillance may well have a chilling effect on free speech and activity”. Similarly, the American Civil Liberties Union claimed that public CCTV surveillance creates “an almost Orwellian potential for surveillance and virtually invite[s] abuse” (Steinhardt 1999). In the academic literature, there has been discussion of how CCTV fits into broader conceptions of surveillance (Hier 2004; Koskela 2003) and the extent to which it increases or changes the nature of state or corporate power over citizens (Fyfe and Bannister 1996; Norris and Armstrong 1998). Concerns have been raised that CCTV surveillance may restrict the diversity and vibrancy of life in public spaces (Bannister et al. 1998), or contribute to the exclusion of some groups in society (Reeve 1998). 

There has also been political debate about the proper balance between ensuring the effectiveness of CCTV and protecting the privacy of citizens (Sheldon 2011). Although the debate about CCTV has been both long lasting and wide ranging, empirical evidence on the topic has so-far not covered all of its aspects. This article will attempt to provide evidence to inform one area of this debate about which evidence is currently limited: the extent to which CCTV is valuable for criminal investigations. The next section contains a review of the existing literature, followed by an explanation of the mechanisms that may influence the effectiveness of surveillance cameras in investigations. 

The following section will describe the data used in this study, derived from police reports of crimes on the railway network of Great Britain. The results section will describe how often CCTV has been useful
in crime investigations, and in what circumstances. Finally, the implications of these results for policy makers and practitioners will be discussed. 

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