Surveillance Camera Facts

By Christopher Godwin

Invented by engineer Walter Burch, the first surveillance cameras were installed by Siemens in 1942 at a rocket launch site in Peenemunde, Germany. Surveillance cameras first appeared in the United States in 1962 in Olean, New York. The city installed the cameras in its business district to help prevent crime. The banking industry was the first to use surveillance cameras on a large scale. Worldwide, governments use surveillance cameras at military bases, government buildings and areas where there is a risk of terrorism. Since the mid-1960s, the use of surveillance cameras has grown exponentially.

Crime Prevention and Solving

Many businesses use surveillance cameras as a way to prevent theft and vandalism. They are also used in many public facilities like airports and train stations. In the UK, it has been said by the CCTV User Group, that there is one surveillance camera for every 14 people. While surveillance cameras may be quite prevalent in both the United States and the UK, according to an article in The Independent published in 2008, only 5 percent of crimes in the Unites States and only 3 percent in the UK are solved using surveillance cameras.

Industrial Use

Surveillance cameras are often used in industrial areas where it is not possible or safe for humans to enter. Nuclear power plants and chemical factories are the most common users of surveillance cameras. These plants also employ thermographic cameras, which allow operators to measure the temperature of these areas.

Traffic Monitoring

Many cities use surveillance cameras to find areas of congestion. In certain parts of the United States, similar systems are used to detect traffic violations and capture them with a digital photograph. Violators are then mailed tickets for the offense. Private GPS companies also use cameras to locate the current position of drivers and help them to find their desired location.

Criminal Use

Criminals also use surveillance cameras. Phony surveillance cameras have been placed near bank ATMs which allow criminals to see card information and PIN numbers. Others have been planted in expensive residential areas so criminals can see when residents leave their homes without having to risk actually being there.

Privacy Issues

Those who oppose the use of surveillance cameras do so for several reasons. Many claim that it is a violation of basic civil liberties. Others argue that they do not really deter crime, but only displaces it to areas that cannot afford expensive surveillance equipment. Supporters of surveillance cameras often argue that cameras are not intruding on one's personal space when they are installed in public areas. In the United States, public opinion polls show people have become more accepting of government-installed surveillance cameras after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

Recent Developments

Surveillance cameras have become far more sophisticated since their invention in 1942. Cameras can now show images in full color and high definition and can be remotely controlled by computers. These systems can be programmed to perform a prescribed action when cameras pick up certain events. A museum surveillance camera system, for example, might be programmed to sound an alarm when a painting is touched. Some surveillance systems are designed to pick up anomalies in large crowds of people. Airports and large stadiums often use this technology.