Crime and the city

CCTV cameras

CCTV cameras - AndyRob on Flickr

In her book, Ground Control, Anna Minton argues that the privatisation of public space and (the fear of) crime has increased problems within British cities. It’s a very readable polemic, and encouraged me to pull together resources on some of the issues she covers.

Does CCTV cut crime?

• There’s the ‘it works’ angle – The National CCTV Strategy from the Home Office.
• There’s the ‘it doesn’t work’ argument – No CCTV – the campaign against CCTV.
• And there’s the civil liberties debate – Henry Porter being a leading proponent.

There’s not that much hard evidence. The best source is probably from The Campbell Collaboration. Their 2008 report studied the evidence from 44 separate studies.

It concluded that:

CCTV had a modest but significant desirable impact on crime rates. In particular, CCTV was most effective against vehicle crimes in parking lots – crime decreased by half in car parks covered by CCTV compared to those without cameras.

CCTV worked best when it was combined with other interventions such as improved street lighting.

The reviewers conclude that CCTV is an effective crime prevention measure in public spaces, but, in contrast to its current broad application, should focus only on the specific targets against which it is shown to be most effective.

£500m was spent on CCTV between 1996 and 2006. Was this good value? If not, could some / all of that money have been spent elsewhere. Minton says ‘No’ and ‘Yes’, by the way.

Urban design and crime

Another of Minton’s themes is the difference between actual crime levels and fear of crime.

I picked up on an interesting Swedish programme via the European Designing Out Crime Network.

Safety and security walks are:

… a structured method that involves people in the local community in investigating both the physical and social environments. The basic idea is that those who live and are active in the local community have the greatest knowledge of it and that it is important to make use of this fact.

Creating a feeling of security, preventing crime and accessibility are important perspectives to take into account in this work. During a walk, people also meet, which in itself creates a sense of security.

A note is made of locations and areas that are felt to be insecure or at risk of becoming the scene of a crime as well as the actual physical circumstances contributing towards the problems. The process involves formulating proposals for solutions and the safety and security inventory can later form the basis for both big and small measures.

This chimes with Minton’s argument that crime and the fear of crime is diminished when public spaces are actively used by communities rather than being ‘protected’ by technological solutions, such as CCTV or gated communities, that isolate people from each other.

There’s various case studies on the PDF – you can download it here.



3 Responses to “Crime and the city”

  1. ConLib coalition and public space « External Works Says:

    […] External Works New ideas for public spaces and landscapes « Crime and the city […]

  2. The interior design of prisons « Interior Design Says:

    […] design of prisons By esieditor Reading the thoughts our sister blog, External Works, on Crime and the City I was wondering whether the interiors market had much to say about […]

  3. esieditor Says:

    Cory Doctorow on why CCTV has failed to deter criminals

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