CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Monday, September 10, 2007

Questionable if Security Cameras are Aiding in Crime Detection

From In Baltimore, police began using surveillance cameras in 2005. There are now 300 throughout the city, and police say violent crime has dropped by 15 percent in the places where the cameras are installed.

Prosecutors, though, aren’t impressed.

“We have not found that they affect the conviction rate at all,” said Margaret Burns, chief of governmental affairs for the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s office.

In 2006, the cameras led to nearly 2,000 arrests in Baltimore, according to figures from the state’s attorney’s office.

About a fourth of those arrests — 407 — led to guilty verdicts, while 386 resulted in charges being dropped because of insufficient evidence. Another 599 people were swiftly released because the quality of evidence — mostly surveillance camera tapes — was too poor to even file charges. The other cases are pending or have been resolved by, for example, the death of the defendant.

“It’s infrequent that we can actually associate the footage with the defendant,” Burns said. “You basically see a lot of people in sweatshirts and jeans and T-shirts. You don’t have any identifying characteristics you can use in court.” Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

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