Measure type: Surveillance
- 1 Description
- 2 Examples
- 3 Effectiveness
- 4 Considerations
- 5 Footnotes and references
Surveillance is the first step in the reaction chain detection-perception-interpretation-formulating action-acting. The essence of surveillance lies in the detection of threats in the actual situation. This can be done in various ways:
- by dedicated observers on location
- remotely by dedicated observers
- by the public
By dedicated observers on location
Observation of the situation by dedicated observers on location can be done either by observers that are incognito, or observers that are clearly distinguishable. Both strategies have their advantages:
- observation by observers that are incognito can reveal the situation in its natural behaviour, undisturbed by the fact that it is observed. This can reveal behaviour (and its causes) that otherwise remain undetected.
- observation by observers (either in person or via monitoring equipment) that are clearly distinguishable can convey the presence of authority and exert a mitigating effect on the behaviour of the observed.
Remotely by dedicated observers
Monitoring with the help of cameras (CCTV) has become a common method throughout all Europe to combat crime and terrorism. In the UK more than 4 million cameras have been installed (The Associated Press, 2007). This type of surveillance too can be effectuated both overt or hidden, with much the same effects as for surveillance in person.
By the public ('natural surveillance')
This concerns involving (a select part of) the public in the detection of crime. This can both be facilitated by electronic means and more traditional means. Examples of both approaches can be found in:
- The USA 'Eagle Eyes' initiative of the Air Force office of Special Investigation
- 'Veilige wijk' The Hague
- Amber alert
- Gulfport Alternative Policing strategy
The effectiveness of surveillance against crime is rooted in three effects:
- its contribution to the reaction chain (effectiveness and timeliness of intervention)
- the mitigating effect of clearly visible observation/observants
- the contribution it can have to the prosecution of crime (gathering evidence and leads)
Security issues where this measure can be effective and influenced by the urban planner, are:
|Financial gain||Boredom or compulsive behaviour||Impulse||Conflict in beliefs|
|Burglary||Physical assault||Destruction by riots||Mass killing|
|Ram-raiding||Sexual assault||Destruction of property by fanatics|
In order for surveillance to have the intended effects, it is essential that the reaction chain is unbroken. As often the links in the reaction chain are managed by different people or organisations, the communication in this chain is of vital essence.
For surveillance to be effective, an observer needs to be able to oversee an area. In an urban context, the extent to which an area can be overseen by an observer is highly dependent on
- the available positions for the observer
- the field of vision, which is directly related to the geometry of the space
- the lighting conditions
Urban planning considerations
Natural surveillance in public spaces can be promoted through effective urban planning which provides for a diverse mix of land uses. Different types of users will be involved with different types of land use at different times of the day and night. A diverse mix of land uses therefore ensures that there will be a continuous presence of people in the environment throughout the day. This can help inhibit particular categories of crime which rely on areas to be deserted or sparsely populated at particular times of the day.
Situational crime prevention measures such as camera surveillance are subject of displacement effects. A UK-study (2009) empirically tested this thesis in the UK on 13 CCTV projects and concludes that spatial displacement of crime due to camera surveillance does occur, but not in a frequent and uniform way across space and types of offences
Highly visible forms of surveillance can raise the prominence of an object, which can raise the attractiveness of the object for fanatics.
Social side effects of surveillance can be:
- Increased perception of (un)safety by the public (some research suggests that measures such as video surveillance of public places reduces citizens' social fear of crime but increases their personal fear of crime (e.g.
- Decreased perception of privacy by the public
- Reflective fear: the idea that (as some critics argue) information technology-based solutions to security problems (including the use of video surveillance) are not suited to confront threats but only to reassure the public that something is being done. This facilitates the rise of a security culture of moral panic as illustrated by the London bombings in 2005.
In general, technology-based measures such as surveillance should consider that security mainly refers to the people and society, and that technical solutions are not effective without the acceptance and participation of the public. This acceptance is, among other things, rooted in security culture.
Practical addressing of social aspects and aspects of security culture in security-related urban planning can be best accomplished by appropriately involving citizens, based on a set of introduced methods of citizen participation as compiled by VITRUV. Ideally, planning for the measure of surveillance should include usability tests in relevant social contexts. Planning for Real and local open dialogue are examples of practical methods to use.
Surveillance measures intend to increase the level of security, detecting security issues and mitigating the negative (economic) effects of security threats such as property crime, compulsive crime and violent conflicts. Considering the large amount of security issues that can effectively be influenced with the help of this measure, it is no wonder that surveillance is widely used by urban planners in all kinds of shapes and forms. And indeed, the economic benefits of crime detection and mitigation as a result of the use of e.g. surveillance measures do not just limit themselves to the prevention of material and immaterial damage, but also generate positive economic spin-off effects for the local and regional economy (indirect economic effects). After all, the increased perception of security positively influences the socio-economic composition of a community, generating all kinds of positive economic effects like an increase in investments, property value and tourist spendings.
Security measures, nevertheless, also require investment in capital, time and money exacting economic cost/impact. These cost contain the relatively straightforward direct expenditures such as investments in police officers, cameras in the street, public awareness programmes, etc., and in addition various types of secondary economic effects. CCTV cameras, for instance, are intended to detect security threats and increase the perception of security, but they can also (unintendedly) make people feel more aware of security threats, creating an 'unwelcoming feeling' with additional negative economic effects (comparable to the indirect effects of actual crime itself).
To find out if investing in surveillance makes sense from an economic point of view, one should first of all find out what type of surveillance will have the least negative economic effects in terms of permanent (maintenance) cost and secondary economic effects in comparison to the expected benefits (in terms of a reduction in crime and an increase in perceived security). Subsequently, one should compare these results with other types of security measures like intervention forces, ownership, deflection, etc. The final question to be answered is how stakeholders like citizens and business owners (but also the criminals and terrorists will react to the envisioned surveillance measures. To illustrate these points, we added two case examples:
Case example: remote surveillance by dedicated observer
The current debate about CCTV (camera surveillance) with regards to its cost-effectiveness is pointing out the following topics:
- Empirical research finds that the overall crime rates drop in the areas with CCTV, but not in all cases and situations. Furthermore, crimes committed in the heat of the moment, such as assaults are in general not affected by the presence of cameras.
- Total costs of CCTV far exceed that of the camera hardware alone.
- To be effective, surveillance systems should be fully integrated into law enforcement practices.
Case example: dedicated surveillance on location
Stewart and Mueller (2008) performed a cost-benefit analysis of the Federal Air Marshal Service and hardening cockpit doors as security measures against terrorist events like 9/11. They conclude that even if the Federal Air Marshal Service prevents one 9/11 replication each decade, the $900 million annual spending on Air Marshal Service fails a cost-benefit analysis at an annual estimated cost of $180 million per life saved (compared to a societal willingness to pay to save a life of $1 - $10 million per saved life). On the other hand, Stewart and Mueller  conclude that with $40 million per year, target hardening of cockpit doors is one of the most cost-effective security measures with an annual cost of $800,000 per life saved.
The case examples above illustrate why it is important to research the positive and negative economic effects of a particular security measure. Economic tools can help the urban planner with this in order to prevent wasteful expenditures or come up with innovative concepts like 'surveillance by the public' (a cost-effective way to generate surveillance).
In the mobility field, surveillance is often applied for enforcement of speed limits or other traffic rules such as only parking at the allowed spaces.
For speed limit enforcement, surveillance is usually applied with a radar system to measure the speed and a camera with flasher to detect the car driver by its license plate. Also trajectory control is applied, where all drivers are detected at both ends of a trajectory, after which their average speed is calculated and checked against the speed limit.
Surveillance is an instance of securitisation, for example the advocation of big and potentially intrusive measures in the name of security, where the concept of security becomes quite broad. Surveillance can involve a variety of ethics issues, such as: cultural differences in citizens' perception of security technologies and their acceptability as well as need to provide norms and standards beyond frameworks for built infrastructure (such as respect for privacy and fundamental rights).
Pinpointing specific ethics aspects in resilience-enhancing measures need to consider citizen security cultures and citizens' personal concerns. There are no ethics considerations that can be planned or implemented without prior identification and addressing of citizens' perceptions. To support this, VITRUV offers a commented list of methods to determine ethics aspects in relevant urban planning.
Legal considerations when considering surveillance measures are:
- Development management standards - Measures for surveillance may be hampered by existing directives for building lines, etc.
- Appearance - Measures for surveillance may for example cause visual clutter
- Privacy - Measures for surveillance may impose on privacy rules
Footnotes and references
- link to be added
- wikipedia: AMBER Alert
- Waples, S., M. Gill, and P. Fisher (2009). Does CCTV displace crime? Sage Publications.
- Violence against persons, for example, increased dramatically, which (according to the authors) "could be explained by the increase in reporting due to the cameras or due to the national upward trend in recorded violent crime."
- Alexander Siedschlag: The Concept of Security in the EU, in: Maximilian Edelbacher et al. (eds.): Global Security and the Financial Crisis. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press (Taylor & Francis Group), pp. 51-64 (p. 59).
- The so-called economics of criminal and terrorist behaviour
- See, e.g.:Priks, M. (2010): The Effect of Surveillance Cameras on Crime: Evidence from the Stockholm Subway. Cameron, A., E. Kolodinski, H. May, N. Williams (2008): Measuring the Effects of Video Surveillance on Crime in Los Angeles. CRB-8-007. USC School of Policy, Planning and Development.
- See e.g.:http://www.library.ca.gov/crb/08/08-007.pdf, and http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/libertycentral/2009/dec/22/cctv-surveillance-police-cost
- Stewart, M.G., J. Mueller (2008): A risk and cost-benefit assessment of United States aviation security measures. Springer Science.
- Cf. Salter, M. B. (2010). Surveillance. In J. P. Burgess (Ed.), The Routledge Handbook of New Security Studies. London: Routledge Taylor and Francis Group.