Maryland law enforcement and many citizens who supported cameras on Baltimore street corners in an effort to deter crime and reduce criminal activity are likely surprised by the results. New research shows that such cameras have no impact on violent crime rates. Yes, that’s correct. They have zero effect on reducing violent crimes.
As this article from 2005 shows, when the cameras were first installed, hopes were high. Officials sold these cameras to the public as the answer to high crime neighborhoods. With Big Brother watching people thought the “less desirables” of the community would cower in fear. They were wrong. Crime is deterred long term by community involvement and prevention at a young age.
Hardened criminals or those likely to rob a stranger on a street corner or shoot a rival gang member couldn’t care less about a camera whose picture is so grainy the jury couldn’t make out their face. The people facing these charges are willing to take a risk of getting caught and if they think that risk is slightly increased with the use of a camera, they will obviously still take their chances or simply move down the block to commit their crime.
The only crimes that decreased “within view” of the cameras are property crimes. They don’t have any effect on offenses like prostitution, drug sales, or vandalism, and offenders who commit a violent crime simply step out of view of the cameras. While footage is occasionally used to identify people within the vicinity of a crime, there is no mention of if the same results would have been possible with good old fashioned police work.
So, is the impact on property crimes alone worth the cost and strange invasion of privacy? Just as in childhood, there will always be cops and there will always be robbers. There is a constant ebb and flow with one side always getting one step ahead of the other but the battle is never over.