Estimated impact on violent crime:
What is it?
Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) refers to the surveillance cameras used to record video in public places.
There are two different approaches to monitoring CCTV. One approach is to have people actively monitoring a live feed from the surveillance cameras. The other approach doesn’t involve active monitoring – the cameras record and store video which can be accessed later if required. CCTV is often implemented alongside other activity, such as signs declaring that CCTV is present, improved lighting, police operations, security guards, access control and community outreach.
Researchers have suggested different reasons why CCTV might prevent violence. Knowing that there is CCTV in the area could deter people from violence. The police could use CCTV to identify and apprehend offenders. It could also support police investigations by providing visual evidence.
Is it effective?
On average, CCTV is likely to have a low impact on violent crime.
The international research suggests that, on average, CCTV has reduced violence by only 4% and overall crime by 10%.
Research focused on the UK has found CCTV to have a moderate impact on overall crime, equivalent to a reduction in crime of 18%.
Researchers have also found CCTV to have larger impacts when:
- They examined drug, vehicle and property crimes, compared to violent crime
- It was placed in a car park
- It was actively monitored
- It was implemented alongside other crime prevention activities, such as signage highlighting the use of CCTV, improved streetlighting, and using fencing or other approaches to restrict access to specific locations.
How secure is the evidence?
We have low confidence in our estimate of the average impact on violent crime.
The estimate is based on a review of 29 studies. We have not awarded a higher rating because of the low quality of the research, the variation in the effects found, and the fact that the research includes both children and adults so does not isolate the impact on children.
There is an unusually large amount of research on CCTV from the UK. We found 34 studies looking at the impact of CCTV on overall crime in the UK.
How can you implement it well?
An evaluation of 13 CCTV initiatives across England identified these priorities for effective implementation:
Use data and engage with the local police to identify the best locations for camera use. Set clear objectives, specify types of offences to be addressed and agree active monitoring hours. This information should also inform decisions about static or moveable cameras and the need for cameras with specialist day or night performance.
Consider camera density, coverage, and positioning
The research suggested some key considerations for determining camera position:
- What advice can the police give on ensuring effective coverage? CCTV operators reported that police advice was valuable for determining camera location.
- If you are positioning cameras during the winter, is there a risk they will be blocked by foliage in summer?
- How could the location of underground wiring, buildings and trees affect the positioning of cameras?
- Are you using cameras that work well at night? Cameras in several schemes performed poorly at night.
- Would a stationary camera be more useful than a moving camera? Operators thought that cameras which automatically rotated were easy to avoid and could miss important moments of an incident.
Operation of the control room
Control rooms that have a direct means of communicating with police may be more effective. This may be police officer presence in the control room, or a direct reporting line. Often control rooms are not connected into policing and can only watch crime take place and call 999, with no priority over calls for service.
How much does it cost?
The cost of CCTV schemes is likely to be high.
A review of 14 CCTV schemes in 2015 suggests that the average installation cost per camera in the UK is £23,132. In addition, the average annual running cost per camera is £3,911. The most effective use of CCTV includes active monitoring of video surveillance in a control room, which includes paying for security staff or police officer time, which could range from £20,000 – £45,000 per year, depending on the role and hours of active monitoring.
- On average, the international research suggests CCTV is likely to have a low impact on both violent crime and overall crime.
- Research focused on the UK has found CCTV to have a moderate impact on overall crime – equivalent to a reduction in crime of 18%.
- We have low confidence in these estimates.
- The positioning of cameras, hours of active monitoring of cameras, and communication between the control room and policing are important considerations for effective implementation of CCTV.
- CCTV can be implemented alongside other crime prevention activities to increase impact on crime, such as signage and improved streetlighting.
This summary of evidence reflects more broadly on all types of crime prevention.
Information for setting up and using CCTV cameras.
This guidance shares information about data protection and processing.