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In the recent past, Closed Circuit Television Cameras, also known as CCTV, has become an integral part in as far as fighting crime is concerned. These cameras have become commonplace in both public and private areas. In most cases, these cameras transfer the images captured to a certain control room, where trained members of staff monitor the scene live. It is, then, possible for these members of staff to communicate with either the personnel in charge of security at that given organization or with the police just in case a security situation arises (Grolle, 2009). Many people have had an issue with the fact that these cameras infringe on their right to privacy and have gone ahead to advocate for the eradication of these cameras. They have instead proposed that an actual patrol by policemen is the most ideal method of dealing with the security matters. The aim of this paper is to argue that although CCTV is a plus to security, the public prefers the police to use CCTV in dealing with crime on streets.
The ideal set in as far as police functions are concerned included a variety of things such as preventing as well as controlling conduct that may widely be recognized as being threatening to either life or property and helping people who are exposed to any kind of physical harm, for instance, people who may be exposed to violent attacks. They are also tasked with the responsibility of identifying problems that may turn out to be more serious. More importantly, the police also work to create as well as maintain a general feeling of security, especially in the given communities, within which they reside (Howard, 1997).
Effect of CCTV on the Society
It has been argued in some quarters that members of the public feel safer with police officers on the streets and they are uncomfortable with the fact that so many cameras record in detail almost every move. This view is somehow misguided, as these cameras present the latest method of maintaining law and order. CCTV cameras act as deterrence; anyone who intends to commit an offence will come to the realization that the risks of carrying out his unlawful act far outweigh the benefits and as a consequence, they may either choose to commit the offence at a location that is not monitored or they may even choose to abandon it all together (Armitage, 2002)
The CCTV cameras are essential in that they play a significant role in ensuring efficient deployment. The people in the control room monitoring the images can make a determination on whether or not assistance from the police force may be necessary in a given situation. The relevance of this is that the police are only called to assist when there is a need. These cameras also instill a sense of self-discipline among the members of the society. To the potential offenders, the fear of being monitored makes them to police themselves. To the potential victims, the presence of these cameras reminds them of the actual risk of crime and this alters their overall behavior accordingly; they become more cautious (Armitage, 2002).
According to the Routine Activity Theory, for any crime to be committed in a given place, there has to be an offender that is sufficiently motivated, a target that is suitable and lastly, absence of a guardian who has the capacity or ability to deter the crime. Any object or act that comes in the way of the convergence of these three elements will surely reduce the likelihood of a criminal act, occurring at a particular place. These cameras, therefore, play the role of a capable guardian and this goes a long way in crime reduction (Armitage, 2002). Police officers, on the other hand, may not always be present patrolling each and every street at all times both during the day and night. This is because they are human, hence, are bound to get tired and fatigued and more importantly, police resources are, in most cases, not boundless.
The CCTV cameras are quite important and relevant at the same time because they have the ability to capture the images of people whenever they carry out an offence just in case the area is covered by them. This may result in the identification of the individual carrying out the criminal act and subsequent punishment. Depending on the magnitude of the offence and nature of the laws of a country, the individual’s ability to offend may be removed as a consequence of some measures such as supervision, increased monitoring or ever incarceration. A number of high profile cases have been cracked thanks to images provided by these cameras (Armitage, 2002).
The issue of CCTV cameras has, however, led to discriminatory monitoring. The people, monitoring the images, being relayed by these cameras, especially those found in the control rooms tend to adopt the categories of suspicion that are also adopted by police whenever they view those screens. Target selection by the people, monitoring the images, relayed by the CCTV cameras, may end up being discriminatory to a particular group of people; for instance, they may be prejudicial towards the male gender and more so black males. This kind of prejudice may, in turn, end up the stereotypes that already exist in society (Armitage, 2002).
CCTV and prevention of Terrorism
Terrorism refers to the use of violence or force against people or property so as to intimidate, coerce or ask for ransom. These acts, carried out by terrorists, involve the use of threats as well as violence so as to instill a sense of fear among the members of public. The objectives of terrorism are two-fold; first, the terrorists’ aim is to get publicity for the causes that they might be advocating for and to convince the public that their leaders or government lacks the ability to keep them safe (Terrorism, 2007).
CCTV surveillance plays an integral part in as far as counter terrorism techniques are involved; these cameras may provide important images that can go a long way in preventing deaths that may result from terror attacks. CCTV can turn out to be useless if it is not done in the correct manner. In addition to the CCTV cameras, software that is capable of biometric facial recognition and dedication of officers, whose duty is to monitor the recordings from the cameras, also has to be in place. It is also important to ensure that special consideration is given to the cultural as well as racial atmosphere in a given neighborhood (Russo, 2010).
The use of ANPR cameras can turn out to be quite effective in counter terrorism; this is because of their effectiveness, especially when it comes to taking the license plates of vehicles. CCTV cameras can also aid in monitoring a whole group of people or populace over an extended period of time; this can turn out to be quite helpful as recently radicalized individuals can be identified and stopped just in case they were planning an attack. It is, however, important to bear in mind the fact that CCTV has a mere 3-15% success rates, when it comes to the identification of the suspects of crime (Russo, 2010). In my humble opinion, this is better than nothing. When one takes into consideration the amount of death and destruction that a terrorist act can cause in a country, it is necessary to take all measures to ensure that these acts do not occur. Though the police patrols on the streets make people to feel safe, their counter-terrorism efforts are not 100% effective. CCTV camera surveillance can enhance counter terrorism activities. This can be done if the cameras will have the ability to pick out the terrorists from a group of people. The cameras need to have the correct angles, a line of sight that is clear and devoid of any obstruction and facial pictures of the highest quality (Russo, 2010)
The effectiveness of CCTV technology in dealing with the threat of terrorism is evident in the new image processing technology that is being developed in Finland with funding from the European Union. The aim of researchers involved is to come up with technology that can improve on the image analysis of CCTV cameras. Using an application that has been developed by the people, involved in this project, the cameras have the ability to recognize any luggage that may be abandoned. In addition, the person who left it there will be identified in a rapid manner, located and tracked. This can play a substantial role in preventing terror attacks (VTT, 2010) Explosive materials and devices have been packaged in the form of luggage and left in public places. The result has been attacks that have led to the loss of many innocent lives and destruction of property. This kind of technology will be especially important, when it comes to luggage surveillance in railway stations, airports, public spaces such as trade fairs and other infrastructure of national significance.
People are currently living in the age of technology; persons seem to turn to science and technology in a bid to solve problems. This having been said, science and technology are a source of some of the problems that face humanity. Human beings have complex relationships with science and technology; it is an optimist-pessimist and love-hate relationships. Over time, CCTV has proven to be a technical solution, when it comes to the issue of security. Thanks to these gadgets, public as well as public places have become safer. The only downside, associated with CCTV surveillance, is the apparent loss of privacy (Saetnan et al., 2004). In my own humble opinion, given that these cameras are mostly found in public places, the only reason an individual would be uncomfortable with them is if they intended to do something in secret or illegal. I am not implying in any way that privacy is not essential in public areas. These are special intimate areas that promote social interaction and integration. They are also areas of individualized as well as shared economic activities such as markets, tourism and begging (Saetnan et al., 2004). It is, however, important for everyone who visits such a place to feel secure. The presence of these cameras can go a long way in instilling this kind of feeling in such a place.
Taking into consideration the threats that many societies around the world face from terrorists, these cameras can be quite handy in averting terrorist attacks and identifying potential terrorists and threats. In as far as crime is concerned; CCTV camera surveillance can play an important role in enhancing security in public and private spaces. Vandals and thugs can be identified and tracked with the aim of deterring their activities. However, policemen who patrol the streets are also important because of the role they play in crime prevention and the maintenance of law and order. The police are indispensable because their mere presence instills a feeling of safety and security. The best way to tackle the common threats of terrorism and crime is to improve on the CCTV technology and, then, compliment this effort with effective police patrols. Intrusion of privacy in public places is a small price to pay in an effort to stay safe from terrorism, which has led to the loss of many lives and crime.