Crime Trends and Surveillance – A Way Forward?
Although violent crime and property crime rates continue to decline, falling more than 50% since the early 90s, other serious crimes like assault and rape are climbing (Fig. 1,2).  This alarming trend is manifesting on college campuses and around the world., The question for us in the security and safety industry is: what can we do to help organizations prevent these crimes using surveillance practices and begin to reverse this trend?
Fig. 1 – FBI Uniform Crime Reporting Program – Crimes per 100k People
Fig 2 – FBI Uniform Crime Reporting Program – Violent Crimes per 100k People
Surveillance – Sometimes Appropriate…
How are campuses securing their students? Cameras seem prevalent. Recent reporting in Security Sales & Integration reveals that 81% of K-12 campuses had surveillance cameras installed in 2015. These numbers are projected to increase, particularly among those already deploying video surveillance solutions. What about college campuses? Will increased surveillance deter violent crime and property crime? Is increased surveillance an angle worth pursuing as an industry?
Although interest in surveillance is certainly manifest in parts of the education and healthcare sectors, what about municipalities or various other markets? It’s hard to identify these challenges and opportunities when leading industry publications are barely conducting any real analysis. Searching Google for <site:sdmmag.com “crime trends”> yields 8 results (none useful) and a similar search using the Security Sales & Integration URL offers thirty-seven. SSI’s Gold Book, which is retiring this year (2020), carries one chart and two graphs of crime statistics (none useful).
This is your industry. Study your environment.
…But Not Always.
There are issues with video surveillance. While video surveillance is heavily employed by authoritarian regimes like the Peoples Republic of China, six US cities (Atlanta, Chicago, Washington, San Francisco, San Diego and Boston) are also among the top 50 most surveilled cities in the world, with mixed results on curbing crime. Though eight of the top 10 cities on that list were in PRC according to The National Interest, Beijing can’t legitimately claim to have reduced crime by much according to the BBC.
Beyond the problem of mixed results, there’s the legal issue of how surveillance is implemented. Ring, an Amazon subsidiary, has partnered with over 400 municipal police departments in the US to expand a “new neighborhood watch.” The jury’s out on the long-term effectiveness of Ring’s crusade, but that hasn’t stopped critics from voicing their opposition to wantonly increased surveillance for profit, citing constitutional civil liberties.
Opportunity for Change Where Homicide Persists – Research and Innovation
There are other subtrends worth considering. Several US cities (New York City, Baltimore, and Philadelphia) have seen increased homicide rates, countervailing national and global trends. Researchers have identified poverty, segregation, police distrust, and guns as contributing factors. There isn’t much our industry can do about segregation and police distrust, but perhaps we can seek new ways to serve these communities and address their issues.
How can we provide our services to poverty-stricken communities? Is there a way to subsidize subscription pricing or leverage public-private partnerships to extend monitoring services to poor neighborhoods? Can gunfire locator technology play a role in reducing violent crime? We already deploy gunfire locators in combat – perhaps we can stand up a network of gunfire locators around high-crime areas to improve police response capacity. On campuses, what is the feasibility of issuing PERS devices to students as a means to deter violent crime?
Surveillance may not be an appropriate solution in every context, but our industry is so much more than cameras and alarm monitoring. Technology isn’t our only vector either; thorough, meaningful research, coupled with aggressive advocacy in our trade organizations, can reap real rewards for the communities we serve and our diverse stakeholders. We can expand our horizons.
Bold Group has always been the vanguard of our industry, and it’s a role we assume with earnest regard for truly optimal life safety. This is why we will look to you, our customers, in the very near future to help us study our environment. We’ll be asking you to voluntarily submit custom reports generated by our various event monitoring solutions. These voluntary and anonymous reports will illuminate trends and subtrends that are truly relevant and will help us recognize our environment with greater clarity.
If you have any questions about this effort, please reach out to Joe Álvarez, the Bold Group Content & Copywriting Specialist at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Calvert, Scott. 2020. Baltimore, New York Among Cities Fighting More Murders – WSJ. The Wall Street Journal, sec. U.S. Accessed 3 January 2020.
Conklin, Audrey. 2019. U.S. Cities Among the Most Surveilled in the World: Study | The National Interest. The National Interest. Accessed 15 January 2020.
Giles, Christopher. 2019. Reality Check: How safe is it to live in China? – BBC News. BBC News. Accessed 15 January 2020.
Hattersley-Gray, Robin. 2019. Campus Video Surveillance Survey: 66% of Organizations Plan to Purchase or Upgrade Camera Tech – Security Sales & Integration. Security Sales & Integration. Accessed 15 January 2020.
Lartey, Jamiles. 2019. New FBI Data Shows Violent Crime Falling, Except Rapes | The Marshall Project. The Marshall Project. Accessed 19 December 2019.
- Gold Book 2020. Security Sales & Integration. Accessed 6 January 2020.
 Lartey 2019.
 Musu-Gillette n.d.
 Crime data | Statistics and Data n.d.
 Hattersley-Gray 2019.
 Gold Book 2020.
 Conklin 2019.
 Giles 2019.
 Conklin 2019.