U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Public Video Surveillance: Is It an Effective Crime Prevention Tool?

NCJ Number
Marcus Nieto
Date Published
June 1997
45 pages
During the past decade, law enforcement agencies in the United States and many other countries have increasingly relied on closed circuit television (CCTV) surveillance to enhance public security.
CCTV video surveillance systems can passively record and play back video at certain intervals, be actively monitored by security personnel, or use a combination of these methods. Law enforcement personnel actively monitor most municipally operated systems, although volunteers and private security are also involved in some projects. School-based CCTV surveillance systems employ active, passive, and combined monitoring methods, depending on the financial resources and the number and type of personnel available. Various uses of public video surveillance and other visual technology by public and private entities to prevent and discourage crime are examined, including law enforcement practices, conditions that may warrant public video surveillance, legal and constitutional implications of using public video surveillance, and whether the technology is effective in preventing crime. Available generally suggest CCTV video surveillance is successful in reducing and preventing crimes and is helpful in prosecuting criminals. The author notes that the use of new technologies, such as computerized mapping for crime control and non-metallic weapon surveillance, show potential for targeting public video surveillance activities. In addition, he examines the role of public video surveillance in the context of community policing and other elements of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. 83 endnotes, 13 tables, and 2 charts