Public Space CCTV: The Use, Impact and Future of CCTV Technologies in Scotland’s Urban and Rural Public Space

Members of the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research (SCCJR) undertook a large scale national survey of CCTV provision in Scotland 13 years ago and now, a new team of SCCJR-affiliated researchers, led by Dr. Janos Mark Szakolczai (PI), seek to map current provisions and future directions in public space surveillance once again.

Since 2009, the use of CCTV, both publicly and privately, has seen exponential growth in the suite of technologies available. Beyond the classic ‘bullet’ CCTV mounted on walls, there are body-worn cameras, facial recognition and other biometric systems, drone cameras, and automated number plate recognition systems which all form a constellation of public space surveillance. At the same time, according to a 2020 report by the Scottish Community Safety Network, CCTV facilities and technologies in Scotland are rapidly ageing, with ‘camera estates […] generally becoming increasingly difficult to maintain and network costs are putting a strain on budgets’ (p.3).

Aside from costs, there are reported disparities in the provision of CCTV between local authority areas and technical problems which can lead to poor quality visuals depending on weather/light conditions and lack of information about who or what is captured on footage.

 Therefore, the aims of this project are to:  

  1. Gain an understanding of how public space CCTV is used within Scotland across different urban, semi-urban, and rural locations at the local authority level which will allow for a comparison with other relevant countries with different delivery systems and governance arrangements.
  2. Assess the impact and effectiveness of public space CCTV throughout Scotland both quantitatively and qualitatively, through mapping the provision and implementation of CCTV and from the perspectives of local people and key stakeholders who use community public spaces under surveillance.
  3. Explore potential future developments of public space CCTV in Scotland that are effective, impactful, and beneficial to communities.

The research design is an inductive, mixed-methods approach that will include an online survey to map local authority provision of public space CCTV across Scotland and community-based walking interviews with users of public space in three case-study locations (urban, semi-urban, rural). We will also conduct a desk-based comparative analysis of publicly available governmental and research reports on CCTV uses, costs, value, and impact across Scotland, the rest of the UK (England, Wales, Northern Ireland), and internationally with a particular focus on Denmark.

The project is still in its early stages, with desk-based research already underway. This is a short-term piece of research that will be completed by April 2023.

Project Funder: Scottish Government


First published: 31 August 2022