Open-street CCTV in Australia: a comparative study of establishment and operation

Wilson, Dean and Sutton, Adam (2003) Open-street CCTV in Australia: a comparative study of establishment and operation. Project Report. Criminology Research Council, Melbourne.

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This study provides an overview of the current operation of Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) in Australian public spaces. Although the use of CCTV as a community safety measure in Australian public spaces has expanded remarkably in the past decade, little is known about how these surveillance systems operate. This study was not intended to be an evaluation. Rather it aims to provide a more informed context within which future discussion and research into Australian open-street CCTV, both theoretical and empirical, can proceed.
There are currently 33 systems operated by local governments in Australia. New South Wales, with eleven systems, has the greatest number, followed by Queensland with ten. Open-Street CCTV surveillance systems are presently subject to no direct regulation. There is a need for legislation to regulate open-street CCTV schemes, and bring some coherence to their manner of operation and mechanisms of accountability. Well thought out legislation, guidelines and codes of practice would increase public confidence that CCTV systems were appropriately controlled, administered and accountable.
To date, there has been very little evaluation of Australian CCTV systems. The need for greater evaluation of CCTV is apparent. Future evaluations should be conducted with reference to an appropriate framework, such as Tilley’s model of ‘realistic evaluation’. However it must be recognised that local government has limited capacity in this respect. Local governments may need to assess particular aspects or aims of their systems rather than attempt comprehensive evaluations. Additionally, State and Federal governments should examine the feasibility of committing resources to the future evaluation of CCTV.
The use of CCTV in open-street settings in Australia appears poised to expand. Increasingly, these systems will be integrated, with coverage ranging across public and private space. The ease of transmitting information may also facilitate centralised monitoring of systems spanning large areas and populations. The precise impact CCTV has upon crime and perceptions of safety in particular locations requires more thorough research. Despite ambiguous findings, many local councils remain enthusiastic about CCTV, although few see it as a panacea. However it remains to be established in what locations and under what conditions CCTV will prove most effective. Rigorous independent assessments both of the intended and unintended consequences of systems will assist in clarifying this picture. Future research should also include detailed ethnographic studies of control room operations and more sophisticated study of the impact of CCTV upon policing practice.

Item Type: Reports and working papers (Project Report)
Schools and Departments: School of Law, Politics and Sociology > Sociology
Research Centres and Groups: Crime Research Centre
Depositing User: Dean Wilson
Date Deposited: 13 Dec 2017 10:36
Last Modified: 13 Dec 2017 10:36

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Project NameSussex Project NumberFunderFunder Ref
Open-Street CCTV in AustraliaUnsetCriminology Research CouncilGrant 26/01-02