Closed Circuit Television a Law Enforcement Tool Thesis

Pages: 15 (4289 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 15  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Criminal Justice


The incursion of technology into nearly every aspect of modern life is an accepted part of life in the twenty first century. To that end, technology is a significant tool in the war against crime waged daily by officers of the law. However, the uses and potential abuses of that technology specifically tools such as CCTV (Closed Circuit Television) systems have given rise to entirely new debates regarding the degree to which such potentially advantageous technological advances violate individual civil rights. As White House executives have been quoted saying these technological advances can be sold as either a reassurance or more Big Brother (Delaney, 2009). What must be determined first though, upon weighing both the arguments for and against such technology is whether, benefit or risk aside, its use is a violation of the rights of the citizens such technology would be implemented to protect.

In the arsenal of arguments supporting the use of CCTV are its versatility, omnipresent omniscience, and its life saving potential for officers and civilians alike. Implemented effectively CCTV cameras can patrol continuously giving law enforcement agencies documented irrefutable proof of wrong doing (Nieto, 1997). They can be used in conjunction with a variety of existing technology options and in an increasingly wide range of locations, there is even an option now to have such video camera systems mounted on drone planes (Lewis, 2010). These CCTV systems also to a degree serve as a protection for police officers and citizens alike.

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Advancements in video surveillance technology have allowed for significant improvements in preventative and early response action. The CCTV systems currently employed in underground systems though not taking advantage of face recognition software allow officers to monitor suspicious behavior from a safe location (Clifford, 2007). This ability to monitor behavior which may be suspect allows also for more rapid and effectual responses in the instances where there is a genuine threat (Trango, n.d.).

Thesis on Closed Circuit Television a Law Enforcement Tool Assignment

For the 2012 Olympic games British officials are requesting that unmanned aerial vehicles fitted with CCTV cameras and capable of flying at a height of 20,000 feet be used to increase the security presence in London (Lewis, 2010). Though ostensibly employed for the protection of athletes and fans, the question of how invasive such technology can be must be answered. While the benefit such increased security will have on the crime rate at what cost does that benefit come. The CCTV already in place has caused a great deal of dissent in that citizens are effectively under surveillance without their permission or just cause (Delaney, 2009). With technology capable of tracking faces and of being deployed in ways which prevent citizens from being aware that they are being filmed, it has been argued that CCTV is an explicit violation of an individual's right to privacy (Schenkel, 2009).

The arguments against the increased use of CCTV are based largely on the citizen's right to privacy and the huge degree of power police and other government agencies would wield. The ability of law enforcement to use facial recognition software in conjunction with ever larger CCTV surveillance networks would literally mean that individual citizens could be isolated and followed if they displayed even moderately suspicious behavior.

Closed-circuit television: a law enforcement tool:

The use of closed circuit television in law enforcement is a tool which has time and time again demonstrated its usefulness, both in terms of evidence provision for due process, and as a watchful deterrent; whether the focus of the lawful application of CCTV is in catching traffic violations, or behind-the-counter cameras in 7-11's catching armed theft, or a myriad of other applications, having a purely objective, incorruptible 'witness' to a crime has been a boon to law enforcement.

Unfortunately, the pervasiveness of CCTV in modern society and its potentially 'rushed' roll-out has provided grounds for several miscarriages of justice; low resolution cameras such as those in "mom-and-pop" stores can often not provide the jury-desired positive identification, and, much like modern DNA analysis, the often technical language associated with these fields can be used to the laws detriment. Additionally, any advanced video analysis that could be undertaken to improve the quality of an image is generally time consuming, expensive, and can potentially be viewed as evidence tampering (Trango, n.d.).

The assumption that stores and even street lights are surveiled has had a two-fold effect, while providing generally indisputable evidence of criminal activity, it has also served to deter individuals contemplating prohibited activities. However, this potential for "concrete" evidence has also served as a prosecutorial hindrance. Known as the CSI effect, jurors aware of the CCTV systems in place expect perfectly clear picture When CCTV with its necessarily limited capacity for capturing detailed images especially in cities where the cost of nearly continuous upgrades is prohibitive juries and even judges are hesitant to act in instances where the evidence does not meet their personal expectation of what CCTV should capture (Davenport. 2007).

Though the CCTV system is extremely useful in the purposes of evidence collection and early warning, it has also caused the degree of general mistrust in law enforcement bodies to rise (Delaney, 2009). While citizens are increasingly unwilling to accept video evidence of lower quality the fear that such video recording technology is becoming too invasive. A hot button topic of late has been the expected roll out of CCTV systems capable of face recognition. The ramifications for such technological capability in a CCTV system is that an individual citizen without his or her knowledge could effectively be "tracked" by individuals with access to the system. The concern that such power would be misused, and that should it be misused the consequences would be dire (Moran, 2010).

Los Angeles MTA Subway use of CCTV:

The mass transit systems in the United States carry approximately 32 million individuals every day (Nichols, 2010). The extremely high volume as well as the need for efficient passenger movement precludes the possibility of implementing the stringent security measures in place at airports. However, a series of attacks on mass transit systems in the years following the terrorist attacks on 9/11 have highlighted the need for heightened security measures. CCTV systems, even basic models, are able of; zooming in, pivoting, and being positioned wither openly or covertly. Further, it is possible for the camera feeds to be monitored live, or to be recorded and viewed later. This allows officials to locate and analyze patterns of potential suspicious behavior which can ultimately be determined to be planning or preparation for an attack or criminal activity (Kiernan, & D'Agnese, 2007). There is also a degree of comfort for citizens knowing that they are never "alone" on subway platforms or in bus terminals (Post, 2002).

Recently the city of Los Angeles has approved a $7million dollar budget for updating existing CCTV cameras and adding new ones. Though this expenditure especially given the state of the United Sates economy seems difficult to justify, one must leverage the singular expense of installing cameras and the potential expense of the unequivocally longer criminal investigation following criminal behavior given a situation without video surveillance. United States mass transit systems especially those in major business centers

Historical perspective on the use of CCTV:

The earliest forms of CCTV only date back less than 40 years, and still remain familiar today; the obtrusive clunky gray box, delivering fuzzy, black and white, low definition images to some remote or local location. The use and spread of CCTV as a site-security measure through video surveillance is a short one, but the history of keeping record on civilians is long and fraught with conflict (Ng, 2010).

The Domesday Book, completed in England in 1086, was an almost complete record of the population of the country. It is important to note that there was very little pretense applied to the effort of data gathering; the point of the Domesday Book was to assess down to the last oxen, how much tax should be applied to each person. The same concepts applied to census's (and then tax returns and alike) through the years; machines became involved in census counting, ensuring more and more accurate records of peoples living arrangements and worth, but it is not just in regular records that the history of CCTV lies; the famous Arc de Triomphe, in Paris, France, is an architectural Panopticon, with ten streets radiating directly from it, such that from the top of the Arc, there is an unobstructed view of a significant portion of the city. A similar street arrangement is found on Regent Street in London, UK. Both of these arrangements not only provide a convenient vantage point for the security services at the time of construction, but also provided a sense of safety and openness for the affluent residents of the area; both of these landmarks were 'bourgeois' areas within the respective cities that were surrounded by the peasant rabble, and the affluent residents demanded (and got) near-complete safety from these prison-like watchtowers, keeping the filth at bay.

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APA Style

Closed Circuit Television a Law Enforcement Tool.  (2010, August 3).  Retrieved April 5, 2020, from

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"Closed Circuit Television a Law Enforcement Tool."  August 3, 2010.  Accessed April 5, 2020.