Ignoring costs and a strapped budget, the city of Camden will be installing a $1.8 million “Eye In The Sky” system of cameras over the next few months. In a city whose crime rate is nationally known, the cameras are seen as one more tool to throw at the problem. The issue with this is that the effectiveness of such cameras in reducing crime is highly questionable.
Camden, NJ isn’t the first to install such cameras and they won’t be the last. According to the Associated Press, the Virginia based Ciber company will be putting the cameras up, though their exact intended locations haven’t yet been revealed. They estimate the first group will be up within the next two months.
These cameras will reportedly be controllable from within patrol cars and police headquarters. They are frequently touted as a useful crime reduction tool- serving both as a deterrent when criminals know of the cameras’ presence and also as evidence when they catch someone in the act.
But as evidence, the footage from such cameras has been shown to be less than useful. Because any “criminal activity” filmed by the cameras is usually a fairly significant distance away, they are unable to identify anything more than a human (no distinct facial features). In addition, the cameras cover such a small area, they rarely catch people committing criminal offenses in the first place.
The other argument for their use is their deterrent factor, as if a potential criminal will abstain from their behavior because they know a camera is present. This is not likely. What is likely, however, is that the criminal will move down a block or just across the street so as to be out of the line of sight of the camera.
Camden has a high crime rate. Officials want to reduce that crime rate. But throwing questionably effective solutions at the problem only serves to waste time and money. Had the million dollars been spent on preventative measures, my guess is the impact would be far greater.
The likelihood that you will be caught on camera breaking the law is pretty slim. And if you are caught by a street corner camera the picture it provides will likely be far less clear than, for instance, a surveillance camera behind the counter of the gas station. But it’s important to note that camera footage, like eyewitness testimony, is pretty convincing evidence in front of a jury.
And surveillance cameras are just another issue for those who are already suspicious and mistrustful of government and law enforcement power. Though, admittedly, most people would gladly trade privacy and civil liberties for safer neighborhoods.
If you are facing criminal charges and wondering how the evidence against you might hurt your chances of beating criminal charges against you, contact me today.