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Leslie Gilmour

Are CCTV Cameras Making Us Feel Any Safer?

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In this day and age it seems like you can’t go anywhere without being watched.  Whether it is through private video surveillance or government run CCTV cameras; someone is always seemingly watching your ever move.  While many of these security devices are meant to help keep you safe, it does raise a great deal of new questions.  One of the biggest things people are wondering is whether or not the extra added security actually makes them feel any safer.  On top of that, it is a concern that this unknown safety is not worth the violation of personal privacy. 

Why Do We Have CCTV Cameras?

Government surveillance in the UK has been around for decades.  It first dates back to the after WWII when tensions were high and so was the need for added security.  Ever since the birth of the digital age, these surveillance techniques only grew and became more invasive.  These days you can’t turn a corner without seeing a CCTV camera high above your head watching your ever step.  By 2011 there was an estimation that there were over 1.8 million forms of public surveillance which includes CCTV cameras located throughout the UK alone.  Since then, that number has only grown which raises the question; why the need?

CCTV cameras are meant to record all activities while also are meant to be used a police and government tool to screen for suspicious behavior.  Along with the screening process, police teams also use the CCTV feed to identify crime and criminals and often times will release that information to public in order to get a positive identification or more information on a crime.  While helping to prevent crime and bigger national problems is a big deal, it doesn’t always help to bring any relief to the citizens.

Public View on CCTV Cameras

When it comes to CCTV cameras and public opinion, the feelings are mixed.  Some people appreciate that this type of video surveillance will help to solves crime and that gives them a certain sense of security when it comes to their safety.  Other people feel that this is just another excuse for government to get involved in their personal day to day lives.  The one thing that most people can agree on is that whichever sides people stand on, they feel extremely strong about their personal views.

The citizens who tend to stand against public surveillance are valid in these feelings.  How far is too far?  It isn’t only CCTV cameras that are used these days which gives weight to the fears of the public.  Many CCTV cameras have been fitted with microphone devices now which mean that not only are people monitoring your movements, but your conversations as well.  It is also known that government can now also use other means of monitoring such as recording cell phone conversations and emails, so there really seems like there is no fine line left when it comes to safety and privacy.

Do CCTV Cameras Prevent Crime?

When it comes to crime prevention, it is unclear about whether or not CCTV cameras do the job correctly.  It seems that they work well in the aftermath of a crime when they need to make an ID or gather information, but actual crime prevention is a whole different study itself.  This is because not all CCTV cameras are live feeds meaning that in order to do surveillance, the person monitoring would have to know a specific date and time stamp in order to find the incident, but what about the live feed?  The live feed cameras can work to spot suspicious behavior which can help to prevent a crime from taking place but it takes a trained eye to do so. 

It also should be said that the appearance of CCTV cameras has not worked to deter criminals the way police would have hoped.   If anything, CCTV cameras have made criminals smarter and help them learn how to be cleverer in order to evade surveillance.  This is one of the reasons why many people don’t actually feel like CCTV cameras make them feel any safer.  There is still plenty of speculation and debate on this matter even though police and government claim that CCTV cameras have led to more than 4000 arrests in four years alone, yet is unclear about how many of those arrests led to convictions and how many were a direct result of public surveillance.

One of the biggest concerns that private citizens have when it comes to CCTV monitoring is when does it stop being about crime and become about control?  There have been reports of CCTV cameras now being able to cite you for smaller crimes like jay walking and littering.  While you should try to never break the law, is it an abuse of power for the government to use monitoring for seemingly trivial acts?  That is a question that one must ask them before deciding if CCTV cameras are put in place for the best interest of the community.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately we have come to terms with whether or not we feel comfortable being monitored continuously.  Do we feel safer or do we want to grasp tightly to whatever privacy we may have left.  We also need to wonder what direction all of this monitoring is taking us in.  Will we ever be able to live as private citizens and have our business be just ours?  More importantly, is the government feeding off of public fear as an excuse to keep tabs on our every move?  One thing is for sure, the conversation of whether or not CCTV cameras make us feel any safer is a conversation that doesn’t seem to be ending soon.  With so many questions left unanswered there is so much uncertainty about the future of public surveillance. 

At the end of the day is comes to public and personal opinion.  If CCTV cameras make you feel safer knowing that there is always a watchful eye in the sky, then keep on living your life.  If you worry that government involvement is becoming too overwhelming, keep asking the tough questions while continuing to exercise reasonable caution.  You never know who is watching.  Take care.

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