in LPRC Reports

CCTV and Fight Against Retail Crime Lessons from a National Evaluation in the UK Spriggs and Gill 2006

CCTV and Fight Against Retail Crime: Lessons from
a National Evaluation in the U.K.
Angela Spriggs a n d Martin Gill
Perpetuity Research and Consultancy International, 148 Upper New Walk, Leicester LE1 7QA , U.K.
A review of the literature on the effectiveness of closed-circuit television (CCTV) suggests
a mixed set of fi ndings: sometimes it works, sometimes it does not, sometimes things may not
change and often can appear to be worse. Part of the diffi culty is that little is known about the
way CCTV operates and how this might explain variations in fi ndings. The study reported here
was based on the evaluation of 13 (although one was split into two) publicly run CCTV systems
set up across England. It focuses on a number of key aspects of the CCTV operation which
infl uence the effectiveness of CCTV systems, including the management of implementation of
the CCTV systems, the camera location and operation of the control room. This highlights how
the operation of CCTV systems might be improved. It suggests that the lessons to be learned are
important if CCTV is to be an effective tool in the fi ght against retail crime.
Security Journal (2006) 19, 241 – 251. doi: 10.1057/
Keywords: retail crime; closed-circuit television
Since the 1980s and especially in the 1990s as Government funding was made available,
closed-circuit television (CCTV) in the U.K. has become commonplace. There are estimated
to be over four million cameras across the U.K. ( Norris and McCahill, 2003 ), and perhaps
above fi ve million ( Gill, 2006 ). Among other uses, CCTV is now used as a prominent tool to
fi ght retail crime in the form of public systems in town and city centres, individual cameras
placed outside retail units, and in small-scale in-store systems. Now, in the U.K. at least,
virtually all town and city centres, private shopping malls and retail stores have systems installed.
This expansion has been driven by an assumption that it ‘ works ’ . Indeed, there is a
wealth of research evidence on the effectiveness of CCTV (see, e.g., Bennett and Gelsthorpe,
1996 ; Phillips, 1999 ; Ditton and Short 1999 ; Newburn and Hayman, 2002 ; Welsh and
Farrington, 2003 ) and this includes retail crime (see, e.g., Beck and Willis, 1995 ; McCahill,
2002 ; Loveday and Gill, 2003 ).
However, fewer studies carry out a process evaluation examining the components of a
CCTV system in order to explain why CCTV systems work, or indeed, to identify those
components of CCTV systems that improve their capacity to address specifi c problems such
as retail crime.
The paper draws on lessons learned from an in-depth study of 13 publicly funded CCTV
systems set up in a range of settings including, among others, town and city centres and
residential areas. The paper aims to assess the various aspects of CCTV systems that can
impact upon effectiveness; the lessons were derived from the case studies. Although the