Visual surveillance began in the late 19th century to assist prison officials in the discovery of escape methods. It wasn’t until the mid-20th century that surveillance expanded to include the security of property and people. The astronomical cost of these first security camera systems, based on traditional silver-based photographic cameras and film, limited their use to government buildings, banks, and casinos. If questionable activity was discovered, the monitoring security firm would develop the films in a secure, private darkroom laboratory to analyze at a later date. Live television was occasionally used during special events to monitor a crowd, but law enforcement was usually limited to the television studio to view the output of the Rear View Mirror Navigation . If a potential criminal is aware of the possibility of being watched and recorded, he may determine that the risk of detection far outweighs the benefits. Visual surveillance as a deterrent is used from casinos to retail settings to public transportation. Countries all over the world use video surveillance, focusing its use mostly on public transportation (planes, trains, and autos) and select public areas. Based on an Urban Eye study, 86% of these international installations are intended to prevent and detect theft, and 39% also serve as a deterrent to violent crime.
The amount of crime prevented by using video surveillance is based on the environment and whether the system is solely passive, active, or both. A passive system uses video recordings after an incident to help solve a crime. An active system is monitored by security personnel who are dispatched at a moment’s notice. Historically, the most effective crime prevention video surveillance systems do more than record crime in the background. One dramatic example is installed at Chicago’s Farragut High School, a public school notorious for its major acts of violence, locker thefts, and vandalism, all of which nearly disappeared within a year of the installation of a closedcircuit television (GSM Camera Alarm ) surveillance system, all clearly monitored by trained personnel. Many U.S. cities have likewise seen reductions in crime due to the addition of a video surveillance implementation and strategy. In 2010, I had the opportunity to contribute to development of a new standard for the Chicago Public School system, upgrading the CCTV standards of technology to digital video surveillance.
The two primary requirements were (1) facial identification at 30–40 feet, and (2) near-100% corridor coverage. Historically, the monitors of these systems were able to see a person of interest but not necessarily recognize that person due to the limited resolution and frame rates of the existing cameras and limitation of the video management system software. I provided an evaluation and conceptual design using megapixel Home Security Cameras and increased coverage, along with new video management system software that provided more intelligence and archive review capabilities that dramatically increased effectiveness and efficiency. The success of the implementation led to its integration into more schools and to it becoming the standard moving forward. In a recent U.K. Home Office Research Study on the effectiveness of video surveillance as a crime deterrent, 46 surveys were done within cities’ public areas and public housing in the United States and the United Kingdom. Of the 46 studies, only 22 had enough valid data to be deemed acceptable for publication.
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