Effective CCTV and the challenge of constructing legitimate suspicion using remote visual images

Dave Williams

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This paper compares the effectiveness of public CCTV systems according to meta-reviews, with what might be expected based upon theoretical predictions. The apparent gulf between practice and prediction is explored in the light of the challenges faced by CCTV operators in terms of effective target selection. In addition, counter-intuitive reactions by members of the public to situational symbols of crime deterrence may also undermine the efficacy of CCTV. Evidence is introduced and reviewed that suggests CCTV operators may employ implicit profiles to select targets. Essentially, young, scruffy males who appear to be loitering are disproportionately targeted compared with their base rate use of surveyed areas. However, the extent to which such a profile is diagnostic of criminal intent or behaviour is unclear. Such profiles may represent little more than ‘pattern matching’ within an impoverished visual medium. Finally, suggestions for future research and effective CCTV operator practice are offered in order to improve target selection.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)97-107
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Investigative Psychology and Offender Profiling
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2007


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