CCTV is now a well-recognised way of preventing crime and monitoring private and public spaces. There are still arguments about how well the technology fulfils its intended purpose but also about the long term effects on using the technology on a generation that are often dismissive or fearful of the technology depending on their personal experiences. This paper highlights the historic, economic, environmental, relationships, education and morals of the technology arguing that there are both arguments and counter arguments for CCTV’s effectiveness and its critics.
CCTV was installed by Siemens in 1942 to test military V2 rockets in Germany and the first U.S CCTV became available in 1949 by a company called Vericon. Early systems had no way of recording until reel media technology came about. Reel media was labor intensive and was not used extensively. VCR technology became available in the 1970’s making it easier to record and erase information; video surveillance became more common as a result. There was also an increased usage of CCTV during the 1990’s as digital multiplexing became readily available, allowing several cameras to record at once. Furthermore, CCTV has shifted towards internet based products, systems and other developments. The first city to install video cameras was Olean in New York for the purpose of crime prevention. It has also been used effectively in hazardous industrial areas, for traffic monitoring, transport safety and stock control in retail environments. It is also used in schools, prisons and in home security.
The main purpose for CCTV is for safety and crime prevention. The recordings have been used as evidence in many criminal cases and prevented deaths or assaults in some areas. However, there is evidence showing that some crime is simply displaced to other areas where CCTV does not exist. The same is true for the economic viability of the technology. There are some economic savings as a result of installing CCTV in some hot spots. It may save on legal costs, police patrols and investigations but also minimize the damage and costs of vandalism in some areas or particular cases. , Despite the savings, it is often unfeasible to use the technology due to the cost of the application, maintenance and monitoring of CCTV. High definition CCTV is often expensive and software has an effect on the price as does storage, network and maintenance costs.
The following case study from Australia demonstrates the complex societal and privacy issues that CCTV can produce in public spaces after the Australian government announced that 54 schools around Australia will receive funding for security guards and CCTV. There is no stipulation on how the data is stored, who has access and why? The article makes some interesting sociological arguments against CCTV particularly related to privacy, trust, democracy and people being criminalized. The report suggests that;
Surveillance in schools can undermine privacy, erode trust, have a chilling effect on creativity and interaction, criminalize students and, in the most extreme cases facilitate a direct and expedited channel from the school to the prison. There are also unintended consequences for children’s sense of personal integrity and for the society that they will create in the future.
Criminalizing youth may only result in more suspicion, distrust of authorities and public institutions. It is difficult to know what the effect of a new level of control and a lack of transparency and ethical behavior will have on children that become adults. Hiding information or watching the public may only result in more suspicion from the public because they are interested to know what lies behind the secrecy. Previous generations were keen to participate in government or organize against it however it is unknown if this generation will believe in the common good, democracy or the ability to change anything greater in society then themselves.
CCTV has serious implications for the future of our society and despite some research showing negative effects such as crime displacement, lack of trust in public institutions, democracy, criminalization and the interaction of youth there are still valid economic and safety arguments for its use. It is unknown what the future holds for children living in a world where there is little question that privacy will be intruded upon and questioned more than any other generation.
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