In recent weeks we’ve heard from many concerned residents of Oakland that they would like to know more about our “report that shows the DAC and cameras will reduce crime”. We rarely feel compelled to correct public misinformation about our work but we feel that this is an important issue and our organization’s reputation is being damaged as a result of this situation.
The short response is that the City of Oakland has never contacted us about any research, data or strategy related to the Domain Awareness Center (DAC) nor have any of our previous engagements with the city or with OPD, to our knowledge, been directly related to this effort. Any mention of a report by Urban Strategies related to the DAC or the value of video surveillance is false since no such report exists. Furthermore, we have taken no position regarding the DAC.
The longer response is that we perhaps understand where the public story originated and we’re happy to provide more information to make this very clear. In 2011 we were under contract with the OPD to provide crime mapping and spatial analysis services, mostly published for the public here. We were contacted by OPD (outside the scope of our contract) to assist them in determining the optimal position for security cameras along a discrete section of International Blvd with high incidence of violent crime. We were asked to assist and it was clear that the focus of OPD in this part of town was very much crime prevention or deterrence. Our understanding of prominent criminology research is that visible cameras can act as a slight deterrent but that overall they tend not to be dramatically effective against violent crime.
We provided some crime maps to the OPD and also added local environment data along with the camera locations provided to us of both internal and external cameras on this strip of International Blvd. The extent of our strategy guidance was that, like in the literature, these efforts are commonly ineffective and that our lack of detailed knowledge about the cameras position, viewing angle and resolution meant it was impossible to plan this work- if you can’t map out how far down a street a camera can resolve a license plate for an investigation then you don’t know enough to plan for new camera locations.
Our work with OPD never progressed into anything related to the DAC nor to any other surveillance projects and our contractual relationship for mapping and analyzing crime data concluded in 2012. Again, our organization has not taken a position related to the DAC as it is outside our current focus. We are always eager to help provide good, reliable information to inform public planning and policy however we have not had any such role in this issue to date.
This is a very complex problem and each city has a different experience with Close Circuit Television (CCTV) systems and crime outcomes. If you have an interest in surveillance and crime we do suggest diving into Jerry Ratcliffe’s work, his summary of multiple evaluations of CCTV efforts suggest that:
“CCTV is more effective at combating property offenses than violence or public order crime (though there have been successes in this area).
- CCTV appears to work best in small, well-defined areas (such as public car parks).
- The individual context of each area and the way the system is used appear to be important.
- Achieving statistically significant reductions in crime can be difficult (i.e., crime reductions that clearly go beyond the level that might occur due to the normal fluctuations in the crime rate are difficult to prove).
- A close relationship with the police appears important in determining a successful system.
- There is an investigative benefit to CCTV once an offense has been committed. “
For more actionable research into effective crime reduction strategies visit https://www.crimesolutions.gov
While this is a commercial product and we do not endorse it, the following web map may be of use to anyone interested in the density or lack of video cameras in our city: http://www.videosurveillance.com/communitycam/