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Evaluation of Camera Use to Prevent Crime in Commuter Parking Facilities: A Randomized Controlled Trial

NCJ Number
Nancy G. La Vigne; Samantha S. Lowry
Date Published
September 2011
82 pages
This evaluation assessed the effectiveness of digital surveillance cameras in reducing car-related crime in parking facilities that serve riders of Washington, DC's commuter rail system.
Along with the installation of the cameras at the exits of half of the Washington Metro's commuter parking lots, signs were installed to alert drivers and potential criminals that license-plate numbers and exit times were being recoded and monitored; however, only one-third of the cameras were actually live due to budget constraints. The expectation was that the perception of greater surveillance would convince potential criminals that they were at high risk of getting caught if they committed car theft or theft from cars. The evaluation found overall that after the cameras were installed, car-related crimes and crime in general in the parking commuter parking areas remained at the same level as before the cameras were installed. Researchers also found no evidence of displacement or diffusion of crime to areas surrounding the Metro stations. These findings are consistent with recent research that suggests video surveillance cameras are more likely to have an impact on crime when they are highly concentrated, actively monitored, and integrated into a broader law enforcement strategy. In the current project, the Metro Transportation Police did not use the cameras to aid in investigations or inform patrol allocations. Also, the picture produced could not be monitored from a central location, an option that might have enabled police to interrupt crimes in progress. Still, a cost- effectiveness analysis of this project found that a reduction of only a few crimes per month would make this system cost-effective, which suggests that an enhanced version of this type of intervention, i.e., cameras with surveillance capabilities, merits consideration in a low-cost strategy for reducing car-related crimes in parking facilities. Tables, figures, and references