Have you noticed any of the new cameras going up around Fort Worth? They are part of an effort by police to provide real-time, 24/7 surveillance of some of the city’s criminal hot spots. Nearly two dozen have been installed in the Stop Six neighborhood on Rosedale Street, an area with an unfortunate reputation for drugs and gun violence.
Beyond that neighborhood, the police are keeping tight-lipped about where they plan to install the new cameras, up to 200 citywide. News organizations have already spotted some of them, including cameras on Las Vegas Trail, Lancaster Avenue and several in the West 7th area.
The cameras are not necessarily a secret, but you might not notice them when walking by. They are usually mounted to light or power poles.
The city has a budget of over $900,000 for the project. But the question remains – do security cameras actually deter crime?
The Data on Surveillance Cameras and Crime Deterrence
According to the Urban Institute, an economic and social policy research firm, the presence of cameras can have a deterrent effect on crime. However, the effectiveness of cameras depends less on presence and more on location, monitoring and utility versus privacy concerns.
These conclusions came from an analysis of public surveillance in Baltimore, Chicago and Washington, D.C.
In Baltimore, 500 surveillance cameras were installed throughout the downtown area and monitored vigorously. Crime levels consistently dropped. In other neighbors with less monitoring, the cameras produced mixed results.
In Chicago, the downtown area was flooded with cameras, 6,000 in all. In the two neighborhoods with the highest focus, crime fell in one area, but not the other. It is thought that the reduction in crime in one area but not the other had to do with residents being unaware that one neighborhood had active monitoring.
In D.C., public outcry regarding privacy led to restrictions on monitoring, producing a less pronounced effect on crime.
It is too early to tell whether Fort Worth’s new cameras will lead to a reduction in crime. However, their methods – 24/7 monitoring, public awareness and emphasis on certain high-crime areas – fall in line with the Urban Institute’s conclusions about effective public surveillance.