A long-awaited study of San Francisco’s surveillance cameras in high-crime areas shows that the effort fails in its primary goal of reducing homicide and other violent crime, but succeeds in reducing such offenses as burglary, pickpocketing, and purse-snatching, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The study found that the program, started by Mayor Gavin Newsom in 2005, is hampered by a lack of training and oversight, a failure to integrate footage with other police tactics, inadequate technology, and what may be fundamental weaknesses of cameras as devices to stop violent crime.
The study was conducted by the University of California Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society. It represents one of the most thorough reports on public surveillance, a trend that has swept the nation in recent years. San Francisco’s camera program is different from other cities’ because, in a nod to privacy concerns, police in San Francisco are not allowed to monitor cameras in real time; investigators must instead order footage after a crime is reported. Researchers examined everything from camera locations and police requests for images to the number of times the images were used to bring charges. “We find no evidence of an impact of (the cameras) on violent crime,” the report stated. “Violent incidents do not decline in areas near the cameras relative to areas further away (and) we observe no decline in violent crimes occurring in public places.”