As we go about our daily lives, we are constantly watched. This is to combat crime such as physical assault, car theft and vandalism. CCTV cameras have been successful in helping to track down the criminals, but they are controversial. Some people feel that money would be better spent on having a police presence on our streets to prevent criminal acts in the first place, rather than just recording the incidents. Most of us take the cameras for granted now and forget that they are there. CCTV cameras are here to stay.
It's difficult to quantify the amount of crime that has been deterred by cameras being in place. Cameras make some people feel safer but others see them as an infringement of civil liberties. Being observed by the authorities was predicted in George Orwell's 1984 novel. In that story, Big Brother was an oppressive regime and some fear that we are going down the same road. The police have a difficult job of convincing the public that cctv is making a significant difference.
As a woman, sometimes walking on my own late at night, I do feel a bit safer if I know there are cameras around. I would be more reassured however, if there were more police officers on patrol. Subways and car parks are particularly spooky places to be. The problem is that most monitoring centers are too far away from an incident to intervene. The cameras are mainly useful for identification purposes, and even then the images can be of little help. I think a mixture of cctv and increased police numbers is the answer. It is always poignant when the last moments of a murder victim are caught on camera. Private installations of surveillance equipment is becoming more popular. Home security is big business and cctv cameras enable us to see who is approaching the house at any given time. They also act as a deterrent to any would be burglars or con artists.
Any surveillance is an intrusion into our privacy but I think it's the price we have to pay. We already accepted cctv cameras in banks. Policing has to be a balance between security and privacy and it's impossible to please everyone. So often, crime prevention is led by technology, which is ok as long as people have the ultimate control. A society can only be policed with the consent of the public. So, smile for the camera.
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