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Surveillance from all angles? Some observations and comments

By Alex Hirschfield


Surveillance activity may take the form of visual surveillance using CCTV, electronic surveillance of\ud people (e.g. tagging of offenders) and items of property (e.g. tracking devices in vehicles) and voice\ud surveillance (e.g. voice recognition software).\ud Surveillance can also be targeted at individuals (potential victims of crime, offenders), items of\ud property worn or carried by individuals (e.g. clothing, bags), other property (e.g. buildings, vehicles,\ud goods) and places (towns centres, residential areas).\ud The effective deployment of surveillance in crime prevention involves a complex set of interrelationships\ud between the technical capabilities of the equipment (e.g. facial recognition CCTV,\ud prediction of behaviour from peoples’ gesture and gait, automatic flagging of suspicious objects),\ud contextual factors (e.g. terrain, land use, social environment), management and training and crucially\ud the response of those subjected to surveillance (offenders, victims, bystanders, local residents). Then\ud there is the crucial area of how the recipients of surveillance data interpret what they see and hear\ud (cognition) and how they use this knowledge to communicate with other agencies (e.g. the police and\ud emergency services).\ud Consideration of civil liberties and human rights pervade all stages of the surveillance process and\ud implicitly bring with them new and largely unexplored concepts and notions such as ‘ethical\ud targeting’ and responsible surveillance.\ud This presentation will explore some of the assumptions that underpin surveillance from a crime\ud prevention perspective. It will discuss the feasibility of developing a theoretical framework for the\ud deployment, response and evaluation of surveillance activity aimed at deterring and preventing crime.\ud Particular attention will be paid to the role theory plays in different stages of the surveillance process\ud (problem diagnosis, choice of technology, targeting, use, response and evaluation)

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