CCTV Cameras Going Unmonitored

This is not surprising at all; when money is scarce, these sorts of things go unfunded. Perhaps the biggest surprise is that people thought the cameras were ever monitored -- generally, they're not.

Posted on December 26, 2008 at 7:09 AM • 18 Comments

Comments

RodentDecember 26, 2008 7:50 AM

CCTV's have been proven to be a waste of time, effort and money. We're leaving aside the studies that prove unequivocally that they don't stop, prevent or really reduce crime in the first place.

Mass-spying cameras represent a sunk cost that has to be paid for somehow, and with crime rates sure to go up during this recession / depression, one has to wonder about the wisdom of buying zillions of cameras only to find that you can't afford to pay for someone to watch them.

qotyroDecember 26, 2008 8:05 AM

Ah, but they have the advantage that they prepare the populace to the next War on Freedom by slowly getting it used to being spied on daily.
That, for a government, has to be a major reason to have these, even if unmonitored.
Besides, a lot of unmonitored feeds can be checked after the fact, once something is known to have happened in the vicinity.

Nomen PublicusDecember 26, 2008 8:40 AM

In the UK many of the cameras are fake or broken. Many of the real cameras produce recorded images that are useless for identification.

SeanDecember 26, 2008 10:20 AM

All that money that could have been used for actual real-life officers, instead it's just rotting on street corners and poles all over the planet.

And the best use for intersection cameras, the only ones that would get monitored because they produce income, is to harass people you hate.

Since it isn't likely that the person monitoring the camera will do a simple DMV check to match the licence plate to the make and model of the registered vehicle, make nice glossy printouts of your rival's car plates, tape tape them over your plates and run red lights where there is no chance of a real officer pulling you over.

John HonovichDecember 26, 2008 10:24 AM

I agree that these cameras are generally unmonitored despite the public expectation that cameras are monitored.

I believe the optimal solution to this is to design and use camera systems for (1) investigations and (2) property crime deterrence. Eliminate the expectation of 24/7 live monitoring and focus on lower cost, higher value applications.

Earlier this year, Bruce analyzed the general problem with CCTV - http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2008/06/...

Bruce cited my analysis of 20 CCTV global studies:
http://ipvideomarket.info/report/...

In the studies analyzed, there was little to no evidence of general crime reduction. However, contrary to rodent's comment, there was consistent evidence of reducing property crimes and solving cases.

Finally, to Normen's comment, many of the systems analyzed represented 10 year old technology that had far worse imaging quality than today's systems. While I think it's appropriate to be skeptical on public CCTV systems, I think it's unfair to lump all CCTV systems together as the technology has changed dramatically (for the better) over the last 10 years.


John HonovichDecember 26, 2008 10:35 AM

Sean, while I agree that police officers are always better than cameras, I think the implication that you could make a big difference by shifting money from camera to police officers is unfair. Mainly, the practical issue is that police officers are much more expensive than cameras. I have studied the UK situation and I estimate that if you eliminated all public CCTV cameras, you could afford 1% more police officers in the UK. Now you may say that cameras are worthless and we can discuss this as a separate but related issue. However, you would get very few more police officers and an almost negligible effect on crime if you simply shifted money from cameras to officers.

Seth BreidbartDecember 26, 2008 1:28 PM

Why not feed the signals to the web and let random nosey people with too much free time alert the police when they see something of interest?

averrosDecember 26, 2008 2:58 PM

Well, the CCTV vendors made a killing. Their political patrons got their kickbacks.

What are we complaining about? This is government as ususal. Only naive believers in benevolence of the Leviathan (and its panopticon) think that the whole CCTV brouhaha has anything to do with fighting crime.

LMDecember 26, 2008 3:47 PM

But Britain was always an extreme (and ridiculous IMO) case in the numbers of cameras installed, compared with large cities in other countries . It's not surprising they can't fund the personnel to monitor them.

pfoggDecember 26, 2008 4:51 PM

I notice that while some of the mentioned defunding seems to involve having large groups of people staring at camera monitors looking for otherwise unreported crimes, there is also a cited example where they had been using cameras as a fast response to reported incidents -- training the nearest cameras on a reported crime scene to begin gathering court-admissible evidence before police officers could reach the location in person.

Most of the objections I've seen refer primarily to the first strategy (for obvious reasons), but I haven't seen much analysis of the second. It seems to me that the cost of installing and maintaining a sufficient number of cameras would be absurd in most cases, but in special cases it might work. Also, once the cameras are installed it's not clear to me that dropping the incident-response tele-operator staff is necessarily going to be the best choice.

Rupert H.December 27, 2008 5:16 AM

In smalltown Oz too:

Centralian Advocate, 14-11-2008, Ed: 1 -, Pg: 005, 217 words , NEWS
ALICE Springs' spy cameras have not helped police make any arrests in the eight months since their installation, despite more than $1.85 million being spent on the system. Police this week admitted only one person had been identified from the securit...

(Mr. Murdoch wants some money to read the rest.)

Nathan L. WallsDecember 27, 2008 9:57 AM

The fun part of the cameras I mentioned above was that while the cameras were in a secured housing, the housing itself was a simple bolt attachment to the mounting post with a PL-259 cable connection. Undo the bolt, unscrew the cable and the camera housing came clean. Open the housing at your leisure later.

And no, there were no suspects.

I went on the series for a few articles, but it was interesting that the dept. head responsible for the gargage said the cameras were useless while the police spokesman said they were vital for security, even though the campus police wasn't involved (and apparently didn't care to be) in monitoring.

gregDecember 27, 2008 1:12 PM

I don't care so much if the cams are monitored. I do care if its all *recorded* and stored forever!!

Let them eat Naughty Pants RumorsDecember 28, 2008 10:44 PM

"False alarms?"
:-)
paris hilton getting a public shagging at suchandsuch blvd and boinkers street! hurry down with your camcorders!

perhaps bored convalescent patients could earn a little cash by (statistically) staying awake... "watchers" could register with real names and locations (instead of relying on pseudo-anon web-stream watchers)

BongoDecember 30, 2008 6:39 AM

Deploying sensors and collecting data is cheap and easy. Actually processing and making meaning of the data is tough and expensive. We're drowning in data and thirsty for analysis. I like the outsourcing idea...after all it's worth someone's money to have Indonesia sweat shops solve captcha's all day. Why not video feeds too?

PeterDecember 30, 2008 10:37 AM

There is a difference between public CCTV and private. When you are a business owner you will want to have and manage your own CCTV system to protect yourself. Could be from employee theft, customers that say they got hurt on your property etc. Being able to record the information for playback later is the real key.

You also need to have the necessary alamrs in place so that if the system is tampered with you are notified right away. Too many are not taking full advantage of all the features a CCTV system can provide.

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