Security Cameras Now Ubiquitous, But Do They Prevent Crime?


Improvements in technology have made high-quality cameras cheaper to buy and easier to install and monitor, making them increasingly prevalent at U.S. businesses and public institutuions, says the Houston Chronicle. “The chances of being seen (on camera) in a commercial area are almost 100 percent,” said Joe Freeman of JP Freeman LLC, a security consulting firm in Newtown, Ct. “At corporate chain stores, you will be viewed in the parking lot, going into the store, several times in the store and at the checkout,” said Freeman, former chief operating officer of Wells Fargo’s security service. “The trend in retail is not only to watch the shoppers but also to watch the employees.”

Houston is similar to other large U.S. cities, said J. Patrick (Pat) Murphy, president of LPT Security Consulting in Houston. Houston installed 180 cameras downtown this year, completing a project that began about five years ago. Altogether, a federal grant paid for about 650 cameras on poles in several locations with pedestrian traffic. Police can monitor the cameras in real time during events such as parades, festivals and major sports activities. Murphy maintains that security cameras don’t prevent crime. He cited a 2008 study by the University of California at Berkeley, which showed that San Francisco’s cameras, first installed in 2005, failed to prevent or reduce violent crime, including homicides.

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