CCTV (Closed Circuit Television) is a visual surveillance technology designed for monitoring a variety of environments and activities. CCTV systems typically involve a fixed (or "dedicated") communications link between cameras and monitors. In the past decade, the use of CCTV has grown to unprecedented levels. In Britain alone, between 150 and 300 million pounds (225 - 450 million dollars) per year is now spent on a surveillance industry involving an estimated 300,000 cameras.
In Australia, many towns and cities are moving to CCTV surveillance of public areas, housing estates, car parks and public facilities. Growth in the market is estimated at fifteen to twenty per cent annually.
Many Central Business Districts in Australia are now covered by surveillance camera systems involving a linked system of cameras with full pan, tilt, zoom and infrared capacity. Their use on private property is also becoming popular. Increasingly, police and local councils are placing camera systems into housing estates and other residential areas.
Residents Associations are independently organizing their own surveillance initiatives. Tens of thousands of cameras operate in public places; in phone booths, vending machines, buses, trains, taxis, alongside motorways and inside Automatic Teller (Cash) Machines. The video surveillance boom is likely to extend even inside the home.
The limits of CCTV are constantly extended. Originally installed to deter burglary, assault and
car theft, in practice most camera systems have been used to combat 'anti-social behavior', including many such minor offenses as littering, traffic violations, obstruction, drunkenness, and evading meters in town parking lots.
CCTV is very quickly becoming an integral part of crime control policy, social control theory and 'Community consciousness'. Police and politicians promote it as primary solution for urban dysfunction. It is no exaggeration to conclude that the technology has had more of an impact on the evolution of law enforcement policy than just about any technology initiative in the past two decades.
In a public policy domain which is notoriously rubbery, CCTV has a solid and powerful image.
The modern CCTV system involves a linked system of cameras with full pan, tilt, and zoom able to be operated remotely from a control room. These systems may involve sophisticated technology. Features can include night vision, computer assisted operation, and motion detection facilities which allows the operator to instruct the system to go on red alert when anything moves in view of the cameras. Camera systems increasingly employ bulletproof casing, and automated self defense mechanisms which ensure that cameras under attack are covered by neighboring cameras. These can be legitimately described as military style systems. The clarity of the pictures is often excellent, with many systems being able to recognize a cigarette packet at a hundred metres and by turning night in to day.
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