This study examined whether crime prevention was the main reason for installing CCTV in the town center of Gillingham, Kent.
Research into the effectiveness of closed-circuit television (CCTV) has been heavily scrutinized since the widespread introduction of CCTV into public spaces. It has been previously argued that the development of town center CCTV systems has been driven more by the availability of government funding and a coalescing of local interests than any crime prevention imperatives; however, previous examinations of town center CCTV rarely looked ahead longer than 12 months after installation of the system. The current study examined crime statistics from Gillingham for 5 years after CCTV installation and compared these to a similar control area with no CCTV over the same time period. The results show that Gillingham experienced an average reduction of 35 percent in the total reported crime rate in the area of High Street and adjacent car parks compared to a 0.05-percent reduction in the control area. The value of such statistics was questioned, and a more detailed examination of changes within specific crimes were explored. This indicated that CCTV had the most effect on vehicle crimes and the least effect on violent crimes. The evaluation considered the extent to which CCTV can be attributable to these reductions in offenses and identified other factors that may be mutually dependent in the fight against crime. In doing so, attention is drawn to the shortcomings of previous evaluations and current knowledge gaps regarding the impact of CCTV on crime. Ultimately, this study identified the key elements needed in future research and evaluation that may determine whether CCTV is to maintain widespread public support. 3 tables and 2 figures (publisher abstract modified)