CCTV has been identified by a number of studies as having a positive effect on reducing crime and the fear of crime. It provides a surveillance tool for security and non-security staff and has both a deterrent potential and a capacity to assist in the detection of offences once they have occurred.
Research on the effectiveness of CCTV has been done in respect of both public spaces (usually town centres) and in a more specific locations/organisations. Brown (1995) found that CCTV in public places can help to reduce the level of property crime, although its effects upon personal crime were less clear cut. Honess and Charman (1992), in research into CCTV in public places, found that there was a strong perception of its effectiveness amongst the public. (For a more comprehensive consideration of the effectiveness of CCTV in public places you are advised to consult Horne,1996.) In more specific and private locations the effectiveness of CCTV has also been demonstrated. Tilley (1993) found that the introduction of CCTV in car parks led to a reduction in various types of car crime. Beck and Willis (1994) found both staff and customers in retail units have a positive perception of the effectiveness of CCTV.
However, despite this enthusiasm for CCTV, various criticisms have been levelled at it. One is that CCTV merely leads to the displacement of crime. Another is that it may actually lead to an increase in the fear of crime. There are also concerns that CCTV is a threat to civil liberties (Davies, 1996). As to its efficacy, Pease (1997) suggests:
The reason for qualifying one's enthusiasm for this technology is not that it will fail to prevent crime, but that its technological and operational base is currently precarious. (Pease, 1997, p. 971)
Here, Pease notes that companies sometimes purchase inappropriate or deficient equipment. He also quotes a correspondence from Nick Ross suggesting that three quarters of the tapes sent to the BBC's Crimewatch programme are too poor in quality to permit recognition of offenders.