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NYU Researchers Question Effectiveness of Surveillance Cameras in Reducing Crime

February 26, 2009
N-309, 2008-09

Despite the increased use of electronic surveillance devices, including closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras, in public and privately owned housing complexes in New York City, there is little evidence that such sophisticated electronic monitoring reduces the incidence of crime, according to an impact analysis by researchers at New York University.

However, the study’s authors caution that that further research is warranted before a definitive evaluation of the efficacy of electronic monitoring in reducing crime can be made.

Analyzing crime data from Manhattan’s Peter Cooper Village and Stuyvesant Town for a period of five years, from January 1, 2002 through December 2006, David F. Greenberg, professor of sociology, and Jeffrey B. Roush, an operations management consultant for EMA Inc., examined the degree to which incidences of crime dropped in the two housing complexes following the introduction of an integrated security management system at the end of 2004. The system included the installation of CCTV, door alarm monitoring, proximity card access, and emergency call boxes.

The results of the study were published in the February 2009 issue of Evaluation Review.

Following a statistical analysis of crime rates within Peter Cooper Village and Stuyvesant Town, as well as for crime rates of Manhattan’s 13th Precinct, in which the housing complexes are located, the authors found no persuasive evidence that the introduction of CCTV and other electronic monitoring devices reduced crime in Peter Cooper Village. They did, however, find stronger evidence for reduction in minor crime, such as larceny, in Stuyvesant Town.

The authors used an enhanced methodology which will allow governments, large university campuses or property managers to evaluate crime deterrence if they install surveillance equipment. The new methodology is described in detail in the report.

In their conclusion, the authors write, “Though not definitive, our results suggest CCTV may be moderately effective in preventing minor crimes or in diverting them to distant areas.” However, the effects of CCTV on more serious crimes could not be gauged precisely, they note, because of the low incidence of serious crime in both Peter Cooper Village and Stuyvesant Town prior to the introduction of electronic monitoring.

Reporters interested in speaking with the authors can contact Tim Farrell in the NYU Office of Public Affairs by phone at 212.998.6797 or by email at

This Press Release is in the following Topics:
Research, Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development

Type: Press Release

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