In the U.S. the first commercial closed-circuit television system became available in 1949, called Vericon. Very little is known about Vericon except it was advertised as not requiring a government permit. Marie Van Brittan Brown invented the home security system. The patent was granted in 1969. Brown's system had a set of 4 peep-holes and a camera that could slide up and down to look through each one. The system included a device that enabled a homeowner to use a television set to view the person at the door and hear the caller's voice.
The earliest video surveillance systems involved constant monitoring because there was no way to record and store information. The development of reel-to-reel media enabled the recording of surveillance footage. These systems required magnetic tapes to be changed manually, which was a time consuming, expensive and unreliable process, with the operator having to manually thread the tape from the tape reel through the recorder onto an empty take-up reel. Due to these shortcomings, video surveillance was not widespread. VCR technology became available in the 1970s, making it easier to record and erase information, and use of video surveillance became more common.
During the 1990s, digital multiplexing was developed, allowing several cameras to record at once, as well as time lapse and motion-only recording. This increased savings of time and money and the led to an increase in the use of CCTV.
Recently CCTV technology has been enhanced with a shift toward Internet-based products and systems, and other technological developments.
In September 1968, Olean, New York was the first city in the United States to install video cameras along its main business street in an effort to fight crime. Another early appearance was in 1973 in Times Square in New York City. The NYPD installed it in order to deter crime that was occurring in the area; however, crime rates did not appear to drop much due to the cameras. Nevertheless, during the 1980s video surveillance began to spread across the country specifically targeting public areas. It was seen as a cheaper way to deter crime compared to increasing the size of the police departments. Some businesses as well, especially those that were prone to theft, began to use video surveillance. From the mid-1990s on, police departments across the country installed an increasing number of cameras in various public spaces including housing projects, schools and public parks departments. CCTV later became common in banks and stores to discourage theft, by recording evidence of criminal activity. In 1998, 3,000 CCTV systems were in use in New York City. A study by Nieto in 2008 found many businesses in the United States had invested heavily in video surveillance technology to protect products and promote safe workplace and consumer environments. A nationwide survey of a wide variety of companies found that 75 percent utilize CCTV surveillance. In private sector CCTV surveillance technology is operated in a wide variety of establishments such as in industry/manufacturing, retailing, financial/insurance/banking, transportation and distribution, utilities/communications, health care, and hotels/motels.
Experiments in the UK during the 1970s and 1980s, including outdoor CCTV in Bournemouth in 1985, led to several larger trial programs later that decade. The first use by local government was in King's Lynn, Norfolk, in 1987. These were deemed successful in the government report "CCTV: Looking Out For You", issued by the Home Office in 1994, and paved the way for an increase in the number of CCTV systems installed. Today, systems cover most town and city centres, and many stations, car-parks and estates.
A 2009 analysis by Northeastern University and the University of Cambridge, "Public Area CCTV and Crime Prevention: An Updated Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis," examined 44 different studies that collectively surveyed areas from the United Kingdom to U.S. cities such as Cincinnati and New York.
The analysis found that:
- Surveillance systems were most effective in parking lots, where their use resulted in a 51% decrease in crime;
- Public transportation areas saw a 23% decrease in crimes;
- Systems in public settings were the least effective, with just a 7% decrease in crimes overall. When sorted by country, however, systems in the United Kingdom accounted for the majority of the decrease; the drop in other areas was insignificant
The results from the above 2009 "Public Area CCTV and Crime Prevention: An Updated Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis", are somewhat controversial. Earlier similar meta-analysis completed by Walsh and Farrington in 2002 showed similar results: a significant decrease in car park crime (41%), and a non-significant decrease of crime in public transit and public places. This study was criticised for the inclusion of confounding variables (e.g. notification of CCTV cameras on site, improved street lighting) found in the studies analyzed (including car park studies). These factors could not be differentiated from the effect of CCTV cameras being present or absent while crimes were being committed. Thus, a combination of factors might be important for the decrease in crime not just the CCTV cameras. The 2009 study admitted to similar problems as well as issues with the consistency of the percentage of area covered by CCTV cameras within the tested sites (e.g. car parks have more cameras per square inch than public transit). Another question in the effectiveness of CCTV for policing is around uptime of the system; in 2013 City of Philadelphia Auditor found that the $15M system was only operational 32% of the time. There is still much research to be done to determine the effectiveness of CCTV cameras on crime prevention before any conclusions can be drawn.
One study finds that the introduction of surveillance cameras to Stockholm subway stations reduced crime by approximately 25%, with 15% of the deterred crimes appearing to have been displaced to the area surrounding the stations where cameras were not used.
There is strong anecdotal evidence that CCTV aids in detection and conviction of offenders; indeed UK police forces routinely seek CCTV recordings after crimes. Moreover, CCTV has played a crucial role in tracing the movements of suspects or victims and is widely regarded by antiterrorist officers as a fundamental tool in tracking terrorist suspects. Large-scale CCTV installations have played a key part of the defences against terrorism since the 1970s. Cameras have also been installed on public transport in the hope of deterring crime, and in mobile police surveillance vehicles, often with automatic number plate recognition, and a network of APNI-linked cameras is used to manage London's congestion charging zone. Even so, there is political hostility to surveillance and several commentators downplay the evidence of CCTV's effectiveness, especially in the US. However, most of these assertions are based on poor methodology or imperfect comparisons.
A more open question is whether most CCTV is cost-effective. While low-quality domestic kits are cheap the professional installation and maintenance of high definition CCTV is expensive. Gill and Spriggs did a Cost-effectiveness analysis (CEA) of CCTV in crime prevention that showed little monetary saving with the installation of CCTV as most of the crimes prevented resulted in little monetary loss. Critics however noted that benefits of non-monetary value cannot be captured in a traditional Cost Effectiveness Analysis and were omitted from their study. A 2008 Report by UK Police Chiefs concluded that only 3% of crimes were solved by CCTV. In London, a Metropolitan Police report showed that in 2008 only one crime was solved per 1000 cameras. In some cases CCTV cameras have become a target of attacks themselves.
Cities such as Manchester in the UK are using DVR-based technology to improve accessibility for crime prevention.
In October 2009, an "Internet Eyes" website was announced which would pay members of the public to view CCTV camera images from their homes and report any crimes they witnessed. The site aimed to add "more eyes" to cameras which might be insufficiently monitored. Civil liberties campaigners criticized the idea as "a distasteful and a worrying development".
In 2013 Oaxaca hired deaf police officers to lip read conversations to uncover criminal conspiracies.
Industrial processes that take place under conditions dangerous for humans are today often supervised by CCTV. These are mainly processes in the chemical industry, the interior of reactors or facilities for manufacture of nuclear fuel. Special cameras for some of these purposes include line-scan cameras and thermographic cameras which allow operators to measure the temperature of the processes. The usage of CCTV in such processes is sometimes required by law.
Many cities and motorway networks have extensive traffic-monitoring systems, using closed-circuit television to detect congestion and notice accidents. Many of these cameras however, are owned by private companies and transmit data to drivers' GPS systems.
The UK Highways Agency has a publicly owned CCTV network of over 3000 Pan-Tilt-Zoom cameras covering the British motorway and trunk road network. These cameras are primarily used to monitor traffic conditions and are not used as speed cameras. With the addition of fixed cameras for the Active Traffic Management system, the number of cameras on the Highways Agency's CCTV network is likely to increase significantly over the next few years.
The London congestion charge is enforced by cameras positioned at the boundaries of and inside the congestion charge zone, which automatically read the licence plates of cars. If the driver does not pay the charge then a fine will be imposed. Similar systems are being developed as a means of locating cars reported stolen.
Other surveillance cameras serve as traffic enforcement cameras.
A CCTV system may be installed where any example, on a subway train, CCTV cameras may allow the operator to confirm that people are clear of doors before closing them and starting the train.
Organizations use CCTV to monitor the actions of workers. Every action is recorded as an information block with subtitles that explain the performed operation. This helps to track the actions of workers, especially when they are making critical financial transactions, such as correcting or cancelling of a sale, withdrawing money or altering personal information.
Actions which an employer may wish to monitor could include:
- Scanning of goods, selection of goods, introduction of price and quantity;
- Input and output of operators in the system when entering passwords;
- Deleting operations and modifying existing documents;
- Implementation of certain operations, such as financial statements or operations with cash;
- Moving goods, revaluation scrapping and counting;
- Control in the kitchen of fast food restaurants;
- Change of settings, reports and other official functions.
Each of these operations is transmitted with a description, allowing detailed monitoring of all actions of the operator. Some systems allow the user to search for a specific event by time of occurrence and text description, and perform statistical evaluation of operator behaviour. This allows the software to predict deviations from the standard workflow and record only anomalous behaviour.
Use in schools
In the United States and other places, CCTV may be installed in school to monitor visitors, track unacceptable student behavior and maintain a record of evidence in the event of a crime. There are some restrictions on installation, with cameras not being installed in an area where there is a "reasonable expectation of privacy", such as bathrooms, gym locker areas and private offices (unless consent by the office occupant is given). Сameras are generally acceptable in hallways, parking lots, front offices where students, employees, and parents come and go, gymnasiums, cafeterias, supply rooms and classrooms. The installation of cameras in classrooms may be objected to by some teachers.
Criminals may use surveillance cameras to monitor the public. For example, a hidden camera at an ATM can capture people's PINs as they are entered, without their knowledge. The devices are small enough not to be noticed, and are placed where they can monitor the keypad of the machine as people enter their PINs. Images may be transmitted wirelessly to the criminal.
In the early to mid 2000s, companies including ADT, LiveWatch, and SimpliSafe started offering CCTVs to the consumer market for home safety and security. Cameras typically come as part of alarm monitoring packages that may also include fire and flood detection.