8.4 Surveillance and CCTV
8.4.1 Growth of CCTV
Across the developed countries of the world today surveillance is part of everyday life and this has led to the acknowledgement that the UK is part of a surveillance society (Ball et al, 2006). The UK has experienced a massive growth in CCTV since the 1980s and this was initially based on the assumption that CCTV was a panacea for crime and disorder (Norris and Armstrong, 1999). The discussion below explores some of the key debates that have emerged regarding the growth of CCTV and then moves onto explore the effectiveness of CCTV as a tool to address crime and disorder, and the impact of CCTV on fear of crime.
The UK leads the world in the use of CCTV (House of Lords, 2009) driven by political support from both Conservative and Labour administrations. CCTV was perceived as an answer to the rising crime rates experienced during the 1980s and was attractive to government because it met its 'ideological demands for privatisation of the public sector' (McCahill and Norris, 2002a: 12). Involving the private sector reduced costs for local councils. New Labour used CCTV to develop an image of being 'tough on crime' and moved away from previous accusations of being soft on crime and anti-police as they had been in the 1970s and 1980s (Reiner 1992 quoted in McCahill and Norris 2002a).
Central Government instigated the growth of CCTV in the UK by making funding available for local areas to bid for CCTV capital grants. Funding initially came from the CCTV challenge competition run between 1994 and 1999 that made £38.5 million available and this was allocated across 585 schemes nationwide (Home Office, 2007). The Home Office funded Crime Reduction Programme (CRP) ran between 1999 and 2003, and resulted in the investment of £170 million of capital funding into CCTV development (Home Office, 2007). Clearly the Government viewed CCTV as an effective means of protecting the public and during the 1990s 78 percent of the Home Office crime prevention budget was spent on implementing CCTV and a further £500 million of public money was spent on CCTV between 2000 and 2006 (House of Lords, 2009).
McCahill and Norris (2003) estimated that there were approximately 4.3 million cameras in the UK but police investigations suggest that this may be an over-estimation (Home Office, 2007). The explosion of CCTV in the UK was not informed by an evidence-based approach that provided a comprehensive basis to inform where and how CCTV should be implemented. The ad hoc and unregulated nature of CCTV growth has produced a range of public CCTV systems that have different roles and levels of effectiveness (see below). Government funding played a crucial part in the escalation of CCTV in the UK but other key issues galvanised the growth and these are discussed below.
The bidding process that followed the release of funding allocated by government for CCTV (see above) was built around the rise of the multi-agency approach to crime prevention and reflected 'the drive towards new modes of governance in local crime control through the encouragement of local coalitions between police, private security, retailers, property developers, local government and insurance companies' (Colman and Sim, 1998: 28). The Crime and Disorder Act (CDA) (1998) had a major impact on CCTV policy contents and 'galvanised many existing informal arrangements and contained the first official and legal obligation for the creation of multi-agency crime control partnerships' (Fussey, 2004). The CDA and the Crime Reduction Strategy focused the work of partnerships on crime control but also public safety, tackling low level disorder and reduction in fear of crime. CCTV is perhaps a unique crime prevention strategy that manages to fulfil the diverse aims set out by the government (Fussey, 2004). The popularity of CCTV is due in part to its wide ranging uses that extend from a situational crime prevention method to facilitating reductions in fear of crime. Whether CCTV is effective across these different uses are discussed below.
Often partnerships bidding for CCTV funding did not have a clear idea of local crime and disorder problems or how CCTV would work to combat the problems. Many partnerships viewed CCTV as a desirable improvement to any area and were under pressure from communities to implement CCTV (Gill et al, 2003). Areas may have been motivated to implement CCTV due to the proliferation of other local areas gaining CCTV and the anticipation that crime may be displaced from areas under CCTV surveillance to their local area (Williams and Johnson, 2000). Partnerships were drawn towards CCTV funding through the financial backing of central government and often more lucrative regeneration grants 'required the provision of a "safe" environment' and to many local authorities CCTV fitted this purpose (Williams and Johnson, 2000: 189). CCTV has also been implemented as a counter terrorism measure and this has been the primary objective of some systems such as the 'Ring of Steel' erected in London after the Bishopgate bombing (McCahill and Norris, 2003) but also formed part of the rational behind implementing CCTV across other public spaces (Gill et al, 2005b). Pressure to access grants meant that CCTV was prioritised and a detailed analysis of what might work locally to address crime and disorder issues was not undertaken.
Fussey (2004) examined some of the 'structural' influences of partnerships that can impact on objective and rational policy making. The police often have an elevated position in current partnership arrangements and this is significant in terms of CCTV as they consistently stress the importance of 'situational and enforcement' tactics when tackling crime and disorder. Conflict often arises in partnerships due to conflicting performance indicators or working cultures (Crawford, 1997). Therefore partnerships are drawn to CCTV as a popular strategy with universal appeal but there is little evidence that CCTV was identified through a rational approach that matched local needs to CCTV. Public consultation tends to indicate low-level disorder as problematic and this can 'heighten and legitimise public pressure for CCTV implementation' (Fussey, 2004: 262) as local communities consistently request CCTV. The public support of CCTV also leads elected members to favour it as it acts as a public demonstration that crime is being tackled and communities are being listened to. The widespread support of CCTV across the different groups discussed above is not based on robust evaluation and implementing CCTV is an easy win for practitioners because, even if reductions in crime and anti-social behaviour are not achieved, they are seen to be doing something. CCTV is highly visible unlike other offender centred approaches (e.g. drug rehabilitation centres and prisons) and can present the media with positive stories that are reinforced through the use of recorded images from the CCTV (McCahill, 2003).
The increase in CCTV surveillance across the UK led to academic debate about the impact of surveillance and one of the key themes that has been consistently revisited through the literature has been the Panopticon. This was a model prison designed by Jeremy Bentham which worked on the premise that prisoners could be controlled if they thought they were being potentially watched from a central control tower (McCahill and Norris, 2002). The increase in new surveillance technology has been seen as one of the symptoms of a transition from 'modernity' to 'postmodernity' and the spread of measurements, such as CCTV, is viewed as a sign of the 'dispersal of discipline' into public areas (Norris and McCahill, 2006). CCTV does not represent a mechanism for targeting known individuals who pose a risk to society but facilitates monitoring of 'geographical spaces, time periods and categories of people' (Norris and McCahill, 2006: 103). Norris and McCahill viewed CCTV as an actuarial technique that can be used to prevent future crimes rather than manage past crimes and this is one of the features that sets it apart from previous crime control tools.