Berkeley Releases Study on San Francisco Cameras

I am really proud of my colleagues here at UC Berkeley for performing a first of its kind (in the US) study of the efficacy of police surveillance cameras. Its findings are limited to San Francisco’s system, but it is valuable in thinking through whether and how surveillance cameras should be implemented. I have to be careful about characterizing it, but here is an article in the Chronicle on its findings, and the full report is here (8.9 MB PDF). The authors explain: “…The findings include a determination that while the program decreased property crime within the view of the cameras by twenty percent, other forms of crime, including violent crime, one of the primary targets of the program, were not affected.”


  1. Paul Murray

    What a surprise, not. Violent crimes are not committed by people who are thinking clearly, and who care about consequences beyond the act itself.

  2. @Paul, yes, that’s exactly it, but to my knowledge, no one has shown the effects of cameras with real crime statistics. This study only speaks to SF cameras, but in other jurisdictions, the chance for a reduction in violent crime can become a compelling motivation for camera systems.

  3. (No) Free Lunch

    I’m surprised that there hasn’t been a study done in the UK which, according to well-placed fiction writers, appears to have cameras almost everywhere and they’ve been there for enough years to have affected behavior if they do so.

  4. Despite its inefficiencies, I don’t think the San Francisco municipal surveillance system is a disaster by any means. Given ample funding, the city actually has the opportunity to operate one of the only successful municipal surveillance systems out there. Granted, a few major functionalities must be put in place for this to happen, but it is a project that is worth the time and effort.

    I wrote a bit more about adjustments necessary to make the surveillance grid a working investment on my blog. Check it out here:

  5. Scott M.

    Chris, I couldn’t find your e-mail so I’m posting this here.

    I found a web site that covers privacy and has an article relevant to this.

    Please see:

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