Closed-circuit television (CCTV), also known as video surveillance, is the use of video cameras to transmit a signal to a specific place, on a limited set of monitors. It differs from broadcast television in that the signal is not openly transmitted, though it may employ point-to-point (P2P), point-to-multipoint (P2MP), or mesh wired or wireless links. Though almost all video cameras fit this definition, the term is most often applied to those used for surveillance in areas that may need monitoring such as banks, stores, and other areas where security is needed. Though videotelephony is seldom called ‘CCTV’ one exception is the use of video in distance education, where it is an important tool.
Surveillance of the public using CCTV is common in many areas around the world. In recent years, the use of body worn video cameras has been introduced as a new form of surveillance, often used in law enforcement, with cameras located on a police officer’s chest or head. Video surveillance has generated significant debate about balancing its use with individuals’ right to privacy even when in public.
In industrial plants, CCTV equipment may be used to observe parts of a process from a central control room, for example when the environment is not suitable for humans. CCTV systems may operate continuously or only as required to monitor a particular event. A more advanced form of CCTV, utilizing digital video recorders (DVRs), provides recording for possibly many years, with a variety of quality and performance options and extra features (such as motion detection and email alerts). More recently, decentralized IP cameras, perhaps equipped with megapixel sensors, support recording directly to network-attached storage devices, or internal flash for completely stand-alone operation.
There are about 350 million surveillance cameras worldwide as of 2019. About 65% of these cameras are installed in Asia. The growth of CCTV has been slowing in recent years. The deployment of this technology has facilitated a significant growth in state surveillance, a substantial rise in the methods of advanced social monitoring and control, and a host of crime prevention measures throughout the world.
An early mechanical CCTV system was developed in June 1927 by Russian physicist Léon Theremin (cf. Television in the Soviet Union). Originally requested by the Soviet of Labor and Defense, the system consisted of a manually-operated scanning-transmitting camera and wireless shortwave transmitter and receiver, with a resolution of a hundred lines. Having commandeered by Kliment Voroshilov, Theremin’s CCTV system was demonstrated to Joseph Stalin, Semyon Budyonny, and Sergo Ordzhonikidze, and subsequently installed in the courtyard of the Moscow Kremlin to monitor approaching visitors as a means of state surveillance.
Another early CCTV system was installed by Siemens AG at Test Stand VII in Peenemünde, Nazi Germany in 1942, for observing the launch of V-2 rockets.
In the U.S. the first commercial closed-circuit television system became available in 1949, called Vericon. Very little is known about Vericon except it was advertised as not requiring a government permit.
The earliest video surveillance systems involved constant monitoring because there was no way to record and store information. The development of reel-to-reel media enabled the recording of surveillance footage. These systems required magnetic tapes to be changed manually, which was a time consuming, expensive and unreliable process, with the operator having to manually thread the tape from the tape reel through the recorder onto an empty take-up reel. Due to these shortcomings, video surveillance was not widespread. VCR technology became available in the 1970s, making it easier to record and erase information, and the use of video surveillance became more common.
During the 1990s, digital multiplexing was developed, allowing several cameras to record at once, as well as time lapse and motion-only recording. This saved time and money which then led to an increase in the use of CCTV.
Recently CCTV technology has been enhanced with a shift toward Internet-based products and systems, and other technological developments.
Closed-circuit television was used as a form of pay-per-view theatre television for sports such as professional boxing and professional wrestling, and from 1964 through 1970, the Indianapolis 500 automobile race. Boxing telecasts were broadcast live to a select number of venues, mostly theaters, where viewers paid for tickets to watch the fight live. The first fight with a closed-circuit telecast was Joe Louis vs. Joe Walcott in 1948. Closed-circuit telecasts peaked in popularity with Muhammad Ali in the 1960s and 1970s, with “The Rumble in the Jungle” fight drawing 50 million CCTV viewers worldwide in 1974, and the “Thrilla in Manila” drawing 100 million CCTV viewers worldwide in 1975. In 1985, the WrestleMania I professional wrestling show was seen by over one million viewers with this scheme. As late as 1996, the Julio César Chávez vs. Oscar De La Hoya boxing fight had 750,000 viewers. Closed-circuit television was gradually replaced by pay-per-view home cable television in the 1980s and 1990s.
In September 1968, Olean, New York was the first city in the United States to install video cameras along its main business street in an effort to fight crime. Another early appearance was in 1973 in Times Square in New York City. The NYPD installed it in order to deter crime that was occurring in the area; however, crime rates did not appear to drop much due to the cameras. Nevertheless, during the 1980s video surveillance began to spread across the country specifically targeting public areas. It was seen as a cheaper way to deter crime compared to increasing the size of the police departments. Some businesses as well, especially those that were prone to theft, began to use video surveillance. From the mid-1990s on, police departments across the country installed an increasing number of cameras in various public spaces including housing projects, schools and public parks departments. CCTV later became common in banks and stores to discourage theft, by recording evidence of criminal activity. In 1998, 3,000 CCTV systems were in use in New York City.
Experiments in the UK during the 1970s and 1980s, including outdoor CCTV in Bournemouth in 1985, led to several larger trial programs later that decade. The first use by local government was in King’s Lynn, Norfolk, in 1987.
The studies included in the meta-analysis used quasi-experimental evaluation designs that involve before-and-after measures of crime in experimental and control areas. However, several researchers have pointed to methodological problems associated with this research literature. First, researchers have argued that the British car park studies included in the meta-analysis cannot accurately control for the fact that CCTV was introduced simultaneously with a range of other security-related measures. Second, some have noted that, in many of the studies, there may be issues with selection bias since the introduction of CCTV was potentially endogenous to previous crime trends. In particular, the estimated effects may be biased if CCTV is introduced in response to crime trends.
It has been argued that problems of selection bias and endogeneity can be addressed by stronger research designs such as randomized controlled trials and natural experiments. A 2017 review published in Journal of Scandinavian Studies in Criminology and Crime Prevention compiles seven studies that use such research designs. The studies included in the review found that CCTV reduced crime by 24-28% in public streets and urban subway stations. It also found that CCTV could decrease unruly behaviour in football stadiums and theft in supermarkets/mass merchant stores. However, there was no evidence of CCTV having desirable effects in parking facilities or suburban subway stations. Furthermore, the review indicates that CCTV is more effective in preventing property crimes than in violent crimes.
Closed-circuit video cameras in the Navy Yard complex caught gunman Aaron Alexis during his shooting rampage.
Another question in the effectiveness of CCTV for policing is around uptime of the system; in 2013 City of Philadelphia Auditor found that the $15M system was operational only 32% of the time. There is strong anecdotal evidence that CCTV aids in detection and conviction of offenders; indeed UK police forces routinely seek CCTV recordings after crimes.. Moreover, CCTV has played a crucial role in tracing the movements of suspects or victims and is widely regarded by anti-terrorist officers as a fundamental tool in tracking terrorist suspects. Large-scale CCTV installations have played a key part of the defenses against terrorism since the 1970s. Cameras have also been installed on public transport in the hope of deterring crime.
A more open question is whether most CCTV is cost-effective. While low-quality domestic kits are cheap the professional installation and maintenance of high definition CCTV is expensive. Gill and Spriggs did a Cost-effectiveness analysis (CEA) of CCTV in crime prevention that showed little monetary saving with the installation of CCTV as most of the crimes prevented resulted in little monetary loss. Critics however noted that benefits of non-monetary value cannot be captured in a traditional Cost Effectiveness Analysis and were omitted from their study. A 2008 Report by UK Police Chiefs concluded that only 3% of crimes were solved by CCTV. In London, a Metropolitan Police report showed that in 2008 only one crime was solved per 1000 cameras. In some cases CCTV cameras have become a target of attacks themselves.
Cities such as Manchester in the UK are using DVR-based technology to improve accessibility for crime prevention.
In October 2009, an “Internet Eyes” website was announced which would pay members of the public to view CCTV camera images from their homes and report any crimes they witnessed. The site aimed to add “more eyes” to cameras which might be insufficiently monitored. Civil liberties campaigners criticized the idea as “a distasteful and a worrying development”.
In 2013 Oaxaca hired deaf police officers to lip read conversations to uncover criminal conspiracies.
In Singapore, since 2012, thousands of CCTV cameras have helped deter loan sharks, nab litterbugs and stop illegal parking, according to government figures.
Further information: Criminal investigation
CCTV can also be used to help solve crimes. In London alone, six crimes are solved each day through CCTV footage. Sometimes, footage from CCTV cameras of citizens can even be used for this purpose.
Main article: Body worn video
In recent years, the use of body worn video cameras has been introduced for a number of uses. For example, as a new form of surveillance in law enforcement, with cameras located on a police officer’s chest or head.
Main article: Traffic camera
Many cities and motorway networks have extensive traffic-monitoring systems, using closed-circuit television to detect congestion and notice accidents. Many of these cameras however, are owned by private companies and transmit data to drivers’ GPS systems.
The UK Highways Agency has a publicly owned CCTV network of over 3000 Pan-Tilt-Zoom cameras covering the British motorway and trunk road network. These cameras are primarily used to monitor traffic conditions and are not used as speed cameras. With the addition of fixed cameras for the active traffic management system, the number of cameras on the Highways Agency’s CCTV network is likely to increase significantly over the next few years.
The London congestion charge is enforced by cameras positioned at the boundaries of and inside the congestion charge zone, which automatically read the licence plates of cars. If the driver does not pay the charge then a fine will be imposed. Similar systems are being developed as a means of locating cars reported stolen.
Other surveillance cameras serve as traffic enforcement cameras.
Increasing safety and security in public transport
Digital Video Recorder for Public Transport
A CCTV system may be installed where any example, on a driver-only operated train CCTV cameras may allow the driver to confirm that people are clear of doors before closing them and starting the train.
A trial by RET in 2011 with facial recognition cameras mounted on trams made sure that people that were banned from the city trams did not sneak on anyway.
Many sporting events in the United States use CCTV inside the venue for fans to see the action while they are away from their seats. The cameras send the feed to a central control center where a producer selects feeds to send to the television monitors that fans can view. CCTV monitors for viewing the event by attendees are often placed in lounges, hallways, and restrooms. In a trial with CCTV camera’s, football club fans no longer need to identify themselves manually, but could pass freely after being authorized by the facial recognition system.
See also: Employee monitoring
Organizations use CCTV to monitor the actions of workers. Every action is recorded as an information block with subtitles that explain the performed operation. This helps to track the actions of workers, especially when they are making critical financial transactions, such as correcting or cancelling of a sale, withdrawing money or altering personal information.
Actions which an employer may wish to monitor could include:
- Scanning of goods, selection of goods, introduction of price and quantity;
- Input and output of operators in the system when entering passwords;
- Deleting operations and modifying existing documents;
- Implementation of certain operations, such as financial statements or operations with cash;
- Moving goods, revaluation scrapping and counting;
- Control in the kitchen of fast food restaurants;
- Change of settings, reports and other official functions.
Each of these operations is transmitted with a description, allowing detailed monitoring of all actions of the operator. Some systems allow the user to search for a specific event by time of occurrence and text description, and perform statistical evaluation of operator behaviour. This allows the software to predict deviations from the standard workflow and record only anomalous behaviour.
Use in schools
In the United States, Britain, Australia and New Zealand, CCTV is widely used in schools due to its success in preventing bullying, vandalism, monitoring visitors and maintaining a record of evidence in the event of a crime. There are some restrictions on installation, with cameras not being installed in an area where there is a “reasonable expectation of privacy”, such as bathrooms, gym locker areas and private offices (unless consent by the office occupant is given). Cameras are generally acceptable in hallways, parking lots, front offices where students, employees, and parents come and go, gymnasiums, cafeterias, supply rooms and classrooms. The installation of cameras in classrooms may be objected to by some teachers.
Use in private homes
Many home owners now choose to install CCTV systems on their own homes. CCTV cameras are an effective deterrent to criminals as it increases the risk of criminals being caught because they could be identified through the camera footage. Most criminals will scout through affluent suburbs looking for the easiest house to break into. Having an obvious CCTV system, or another security alarm, makes the house appear to be a more difficult target so the criminals will likely move on to the next house. Modern CCTV systems can be monitored through mobile phone apps so it is possible to view live footage of your house from anywhere you have internet coverage. Some systems even provide motion detection so when movement is detected, an alert can be sent to your phone.
Criminals may use surveillance cameras to monitor the public. For example, a hidden camera at an ATM can capture people’s PINs as they are entered, without their knowledge. The devices are small enough not to be noticed, and are placed where they can monitor the keypad of the machine as people enter their PINs. Images may be transmitted wirelessly to the criminal. Even lawful surveillance cameras sometimes have their data go into the hands of people who have no legal right to receive it.