Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) is used widely by public and private organisations to deter and respond to crime and anti social behaviour, however very little is known about the value of CCTV. In 2006 Perpetuity, a research and consultancy company specialising in crime and security, carried out a ground breaking study to identify the economic benefits of CCTV to the police and wider criminal justice system.
This was a small scale piece of research which focused on the Milton Keynes police operated CCTV system. The aim of the study was to identify the benefits of the CCTV system locally to the police and the wider criminal justice system and to quantify these where possible. In order to achieve this Perpetuity reviewed a sample of police case files and data collected by the CCTV team and supplemented this with interviews with CCTV staff including managers, and police officers themselves.
It is worth noting that although it is fairly simple to identify the perceived benefits of CCTV through interviews it is another matter to place a value on the benefit. Police collect evidence to aid prosecution of offenders, not to demonstrate the value of CCTV. For example, data suggested that CCTV reduced the amount of time that police officers spent investigating a case, however data does not exist that shows how long police officers spend investigating cases, clearly this depends on the nature of
the offence and the circumstances and can vary dramatically. Therefore actually quantifying the amount of time saved was a difficult process. Despite this the review did manage to identify at least some savings to the police and the wider criminal justice system that could be attributed to CCTV.
The CCTV system
The CCTV system in Milton Keynes covers two areas, a city centre and a small part of a local town. The systems are monitored by technicians (i.e. operators) employed by and located in the same building as the Milton Keynes police service. The CCTV technicians can access the police command and control system, which is used to log calls from the public, and use the CCTV cameras to screen calls to determine whether a police officer need attend.
The team can produce CCTV evidence onsite and provide evidence for police officers within 30 minutes of an incident occurring to use in interview. The cameras are used to focus primarily on acquisitive and violent crime, such as car crime,shop lifting, public order, assault, drunk and disorderly, robbery, criminal damage and drink driving.