The following is a short essay I wrote in Grade 12 (3+ years ago) for my Information Processes and Technology class. It’s fun to see the progress I’ve made transitioning from haphazard essays such as this to the more eloquent, well scripted assignments I complete today.
The topic statement chose to write about:
“Electronic video surveillance of Australian public places is justified for the protection of the public”
Technology plays a large role in the day-to-day lives of civilians across the world, whether they know it or not. Every day people are being watched and scrutinised over their actions through the use of electronic surveillance. For years now Australian governments and local authorities in particular have used such technology for their own means. Whether it is for personal safety, national security, traffic monitoring or even used as deterrence from property crime, rest assured someone is watching your every move.
Certainly, the use of CCTV (Closed-Circuit Television) has its benefits. However when it comes to people’s safety, how sure can we be that the data such surveillance is obtaining is in good hands? As soon as data is collected and digitised it may be shared among government agencies, or even worse, stolen or leaked into the public.
The first implementation of local government administrated open-street CCTV surveillance commenced in Perth in 1991 . Since then the network of electronic surveillance cameras has increased to 33 systems in various locations throughout Australia.
Ever since the first introduction of electronic video surveillance into Australia, many individuals and groups fear that such “Big Brother” acts of surveillance will undoubtedly lead to totalitarianism throughout our states and their arguments are critical to the life of video surveillance.
CCTV surveillance was introduced into Australia as an effective way of reducing crime rates, hoping that the presence of cameras would deter people from committing criminal acts or omissions. However, attempts to link the effectiveness of CCTV with changes in crime rates poses problems as a variation in overall crime rates may be subject to random fluctuations . Also, studies undertaken in the Gold Coast area found that the use of CCTV appears effective at the detection of crime as opposed to the prevention of it . CCTV images only contributed to solving 3% of robberies in London, even though Britain has more security cameras than any other country in Europe . So the question must be asked, is the presence of electronic video surveillance really going to help achieve lower crime statistics?
One problem with having so many cameras all recording hours of footage is that someone needs to constantly be watching the footage for any sign of suspicious activity. The cameras are only useful if the footage which they are recording is being monitored. This leads to a significant amount of cameras being disabled due to the fact that there are too many to monitor. A survey established that only one third of the surveillance systems are monitored for 24 hours and that a further third of systems are not monitored at all .
The fact that the councils cannot afford to employ enough staff to regulate program operation and the release of visual material produces queries as to why they can justify the cost of having all of the video surveillance systems in the first place.
There are three very important aspects in relation to how CCTV can be managed more effectively. Firstly, bias plays a large role in the operation of cameras throughout Australia and can be seen that increased amounts of attention are being placed onto certain social groups. Studies have found that working-class youths, women and ethnic minorities are more likely to be targets of CCTV due to operator bias . This leads onto the second and most controversial issue regarding electronic video surveillance, civil liberty.
The placement and biased use of cameras may negatively impact on personal privacy. It is a split vote between those who believe that such surveillance is keeping the streets safe and those who believe that electronic video surveillance has no control over personal safety, but is rather just an invasion of privacy. However, some people suggest that if you’ve done nothing wrong, then you’ve got nothing to hide and therefore shouldn’t feel spied upon by the use of video surveillance in everyday life.
The third factor relating to the effectiveness of video surveillance is the displacement of crime. Usage of camera surveillance may cause a shift in crime from locations which are under surveillance to neighbouring areas which are not under surveillance. If this were to happen, the implementation and use of CCTV would not eliminate or reduce crime, but rather just move the same activities into different locations .
Regardless of the many arguments held against the use of CCTV and similar systems it seems that electronic video surveillance is ultimately going to become a part of everyone’s life, whether we like it or not and is therefore the governing agencies responsibility to properly monitor these systems, otherwise the installation and implementation of systems much like CCTV would become a total waste of money.
On many occasions the best crime prevention tactics include a combination of measures which have been put in place. Perhaps if careful consideration to all of the components of the surveillance system were undertaken and other suitable systems were installed instead of relying on the one approach, Australian governments and local agencies could lower crime statistics and possibly change the mind of many Australians who believe that electronic video surveillance systems are nothing but an intrusion into the private lives of many civilians, rather than a means of lowering crime rates.