Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Security Theatre

Steve Swain, formerly with the Metropolitan Police and now a consultant with Control Risks, questions the belief that security cameras prevent crime or terrorism.
"I don't know of a single incident where CCTV has actually been used to spot, apprehend or detain offenders in the act. ... The presence of CCTV is irrelevant for those who want to sacrifice their lives to carry out a terrorist act." [CNN August 3rd, 2007, via Bruce Schneier]

Swain has also written an article in the latest issue of his company's newsletter challenging the fantasy of technology.
"In today's threat environment, technology for law enforcement agencies is seen as the answer to all our prayers; all seeing, infallible, indefatigable. If only." [Perspective, July 2007, pdf]

Meanwhile, the City of New York is planning to spend $90m million (annual running costs $8 million) on a network of security cameras, code-named "Ring of Steel". New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly seems unconcerned that there is no positive evidence of any deterrent effect.
"We don't know acts that may have been planned that -- because of the surveillance and deterrence systems that are in place -- did not go forward." [CNN August 3rd, 2007]
Seems a remarkably thin justification for spending public money. So if security cameras don't actually prevent crime and terrorism, what is their real purpose? Swain suggests two answers: investigation and public reassurance.
"You need to do this piece of theater so that if the terrorists are looking at you, they can see that you've got some measures in place."
Oh, right. Chief Wiggum rules okay.

Wikipedia: Clancy Wiggum
See also: The ineffectiveness of security cameras

No comments: