One of the forces driving change in the provision of security services is technology. In the recent years, the practices of forensic science, criminology, and security management have become reliant on technology.
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One of the interesting applications of technology to crime prevention is the use of cameras. Currently, many cities rate their security preparedness by the number of CCTV cameras installed in their jurisdiction (Holmes, 2005). This paper examines the merits of CCTV surveillance, its impact on constitutional rights, and its effects on crime control.
Advantages and Disadvantages of CCTV Cameras
CCTV technology is an improvement of the use of video cameras for surveillance. Their use dates back to several decades ago. Their significance to crime prevention comes from their increasing use throughout the world. After 9/11, many public safety authorities decided to install CCTV cameras for public surveillance. Prior to that, the cameras had been mainly used to secure high security installations and not for general public surveillance (Robb, 1980). The main advantages of the cameras are as follows.
CCTV cameras keep a record of events that, at times, prove critical to the resolution of crime (Holmes, 2005). The fact that the events captured by the CCTV cameras can act as evidence makes them very useful in the criminal justice system. Second, CCTV cameras can provide full time surveillance without the need for breaks or rest, as compared to human agents.
In addition, the cameras will maintain focus on an area of interest for as long as the services are required. The third advantage of CCTV cameras is that they make it possible to keep a record of events which can later be analyzed for trends.
However, the cameras have significant disadvantages. First, it is impossible to keep track of all the CCTV footage collected in a given period (Robb, 1980).
A review of CCTV footage only happens when there is an issue of interest. For instance, local police are likely to review the footage after the occurrence of a crime to find out what happened. Second, CCTV cameras usually have a limited range of coverage. This means that for the effective coverage of a large area, very many cameras must be installed. This increases the management costs, which may not be justifiable.
The third disadvantage of CCTV cameras is that they cannot detect crime. They are a passive element of the security system and require a human analyst for effectiveness (Holmes, 2005). The fourth disadvantage associated with CCTV cameras is that they often lack sound recording devices. This becomes very important in cases where the cameras record a meeting that is of interest to law enforcement agencies. In such a case, the cameras can only prove that the people captured met.
Effects CCTV Cameras on Constitutional Rights
The three main concerns relating to the continued use of CCTV cameras are as follows. First, there is a concern that CCTV usage impinges against the fourth amendment rights that shield US citizens from “unreasonable searches and seizures” (Robb, 1980, p. 1). CCTV footage allows law enforcement officers to collect data on the activities of various individuals in areas with CCTV surveillance. This can qualify as unreasonable search. In this regard, the use of the footage captured by CCTV can violate individual rights.
Second, the use of CCTV cameras impinges on individual privacy rights (Zalman, 2011). The basic motivation behind the installation of CCTV footage is to deter crime. This necessitates the installation of the cameras in places where a crime is likely to occur. The result is that the cameras must be installed in the places where they affect the privacy of law-abiding citizens because criminals look for secluded places to carry out crimes.
The third constitutional impact of CCTV cameras is that they may limit the enjoyment of the freedom of speech and association (Zalman, 2011). In places where the cameras have sound recording capabilities, they can be a barrier affecting the free interaction of people. In this case, private conversations with friends and associates can end up in the hands of law enforcement agencies.
Effects of CCTV Cameras on the Efficiency of the Criminal Justice System
The main effect of CCTV cameras on the efficiency of the criminal justice system is that they have a deterrent effect on crime (Robb, 1980). Criminals tend to avoid places with CCTV cameras because of the risk of identification by law enforcement agents. In the case of organized crime, CCTV cameras increase the planning requirements. Criminals must find the ways of hiding their identities in case a CCTV camera records their activities.
The second impact of CCTV cameras on crime control is that they increase the confidence of the public in the security efforts put in place by the security agencies. Increased confidence by the public results in fewer opportunities for criminals to commit crimes. The overall effect is that the presence of CCTV cameras increases the sense of security in a given place.
The third impact of CCTV cameras on crime control is that they make the identification of criminals easy. This makes it simple to process criminals through the criminal justice system. Successful prosecution of criminals also acts as a deterrent for further activities by other criminals. This means that the presence of CCTV cameras makes it easier to manage crime in populated areas.
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Summary of Findings
The key findings associated with the use of CCTV cameras are as follows. First, the use of CCTV cameras impinges on some of the constitutional rights of the citizens of the United States. This situation arises from the conflict between allowing people to enjoy all their constitutional rights and the need to keep track of criminals in various communities. Second, there are clear advantages of the use of CCTV cameras.
Their presence acts as deterrence to criminal activity. They also provide a reliable record of events and can be a very important source of evidence in a criminal case. Third, CCTV cameras can increase the chances of successful conviction of criminals, which in turn discourages further crime.
The main recommendations arising from the discussions above are as follows. First, the use of CCTV cameras for surveillance must continue. The absence of these cameras can lead to serious deterioration of national security.
Their role in deterring crime and in supporting cases makes them an indispensable part of the criminal justice system. Second, there need to be national laws put in place and reviewed often in light of the changing security environment. This comes from the realization that it is very easy for law enforcement agencies to overstep their mandate when it comes to the use of CCTV cameras.
A national law should determine the persons allowed to access the CCTV footage collected by law enforcement agencies and the footage filmed by private firms. In addition, the law should prescribe lawful uses of CCTV footage. If the surveillance targets a particular person or group, law enforcement agents should get a warrant similar to search warrants needed to search private property.
Holmes, D. (2005). Communication Theory: Media, Technology, and Society. London, UK: SAGE.
Robb, C. G. (1980). Police Use of CCTV (Closed Circuit Television) Surveillance Constitutional Implications and Proposed Regulations. University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform, 13(3), 571-602.
Zalman, M. (2011). Criminal Procedure: Constitution and Society. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice-Hall.