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The thinking eye: Pros and cons of second generation CCTV surveillance systems

Ray Surette (Department of Criminal Justice, University of Central Florida, Orlando, Florida, USA)

Policing: An International Journal

ISSN: 1363-951X

Article publication date: 1 March 2005




To discuss and review the shift to computer enhanced self‐monitoring CCTV surveillance systems of public spaces and the social implications of this shift.


A review of the research and evaluation literature concerning CCTV surveillance systems culling out the history of public space CCTV systems and the concerns associated with first and second generation CCTV surveillance.


The main difference between first and second generation surveillance is the change from a “dumb camera” that needs a human eye to evaluate its images to a computer‐linked camera system that evaluates its own video images. Second generation systems reduce the human factor in surveillance and address some of the basic concerns associated with first generation surveillance systems such as data swamping, boredom, voyeurism, and profiling. Their enhanced capabilities, though, raise new concerns, particularly the expansion of surveillance and its intrusiveness.

Research limitations/implications

Additional research is needed to assess CCTV surveillance on a set of social dynamics such as informal guardianship activities by citizens.

Practical implications

The adoption of computer‐enhanced CCTV surveillance systems should not be an automatic response to a public space security problem and their deployment should not be decided simply on the technology's availability or cost.


This paper provides a concise overview of the concerns associated with first generation CCTV surveillance and how the evolution of computer‐enhanced CCTV surveillance systems will alter and add to these concerns. For researchers it details research questions that need to be addressed. For practitioners and government officials considering the use of public space CCTV surveillance it provides a set of issues that should be considered prior to system adoption or deployment.



Surette, R. (2005), "The thinking eye: Pros and cons of second generation CCTV surveillance systems", Policing: An International Journal, Vol. 28 No. 1, pp. 152-173.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2005, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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