Although CCTVs don’t physically limit access to an object, or make it harder to steal, it does have a capacity to prevent crimes in certain situations. The CCTVs main purpose is to make an offender think that if he commits a crime, he will be caught. CCTV therefore increases the perceived risk of capture, which would discourage any rational offender to do any criminal activity. However, for this crime prevention process to succeed, there are two elements that must exist: the awareness of the offender of the camera’s presence, and the offender’s belief that the cameras are capable to present enough risk of capture.
The Offender’s Awareness of the Presence of a Camera
For instance, if a CCTV system is installed to prevent the increase of crime in a town center, it is important that offenders should know that they are being watched. Even if the authorities install a system, place signs and have a publicity campaign, there is no guarantee that people will be aware of the presence of the cameras. There was a research conducted and results showed that only one-third of the respondents were aware that they were being captured by CCTV cameras.
Security Cameras Should Present Enough Risk of Capture
There is no guarantee that the presence of cameras can increase the offender’s awareness of being caught. In a perfect scenario, CCTV should have the capability to prevent possible crime, but this is only true if the offender is in a proper state of mind. For instance, possible offenders who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol may not be in the right mind to be aware that they may be under surveillance. This may affect the effectivity of CCTV in fighting crime.
CCTV Can Help Catch Offenders
CCTV cameras can also assist in the detection and arrest of offenders. For this to happen, the police must respond quickly to any significant incidents identified by camera operators, and the local criminal justice system should also pursue the offenders’ conviction. Offenders that were caught should also be prevented from committing further crimes within the CCTV area. The installation and publicity of a new system can reduce crime, but offenders might soon know what types of incidents bring out a police response and how fast that response is. In this case, the availability of local resources becomes a factor in the success of security cameras in catching the offenders.
The eagerness to catch an offender in the act is often the reason behind the placement of hidden cameras. CCTV evidence is certainly compelling, but the CCTV’s capability to reduce overall crime levels through detection is less convincing, and probably a less effective way of decreasing the crime rate. The implementer must also believe that arrests are the best way to solve a crime problem. In Australia, there is some evidence that increasing arrests can have a short-term benefit, but the benefit fades in the long run because there is a lack of a more preventive policy.