Closed circuit television, otherwise known as CCTV, utilizes a web of cameras placed throughout a specific location, such as a sporting event or zoo. These cameras are all connected to a central system that monitors the feed from each camera. closed circuit television is also becoming used in new locations all of the time, like banks, traffic lights, and even urban areas.
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Police offices in major metropolitan areas advocate the use of closed circuit television in dense, urban areas to assist them with identifying suspects and wanted criminals. Civil libertarians protest that this is an invasion of privacy and should not be used. The pros and cons of closed circuit television in urban areas are hotly debated.
On the pro side of closed circuit television in urban areas are civil officials and victim’s advocates. Closed circuit television allows law enforcement to view dangerous situations from a distance and gives them a larger view of any public event. Closed circuit television is thought to be a deterrent to crime when signs are clearly posted laying out the fact that pedestrians and shoppers are being watched by law enforcement. Closed circuit television also makes it easier for the legal system to prosecute crime. This is evident by the signs that many people see in shopping districts that let customers know that people are watching them and that shoplifters will be prosecuted.
Victim’s advocates stress that if closed circuit television is installed in heavily trafficked areas, then tracking the movements of perpetrators will be easier. A famous case in Florida was solved when a closed circuit television camera out side of a local business captured a man approach and kidnap the young female victim.
On the con side of closed circuit television are civil libertarians and economists concerned with overspending by local governments.
Civil libertarians argue that closed circuit television invades the privacy rights of individuals. Primarily, this is an argument in western countries that presume privacy rights, while eastern countries place less of a value on individual rights of privacy. A major fear is that law enforcement will cross the proverbial line and wind up monitoring people and activities that were never intended to be monitored.
Economists and fiscal conservatives worry that the expense of installing an extensive network of cameras will out weigh any judicial or safety benefit that might be derived from them – in other words, they argue that closed circuit television is not cost effective.
Ultimately, this is an issue that will have to be sorted out “on the street.” Law enforcement will be required to demonstrate that closed circuit television does actually make city streets in urban areas a safer place to be. And civil libertarians will need to fight for the privacy rights that every individual in the United States has. It will likely be an extended and possibly costly legal fight as the two sides attempt to make sure their voice is heard.