National / Crime & Legal

Security cameras credited with big drop in crime but public fears overreliance, loss of privacy

Kyodo

Footage from surveillance and dashboard cameras helped identify suspects in more than 10,000 criminal cases last year, provisional data from the National Police Agency showed Thursday.

The number of suspected Penal Code violations that came to police attention in 2016 fell below 1 million for the first time in postwar history, the NPA also said, giving partial credit to the cameras.

But there are persistent public concerns that police are relying too much on such cameras because there have been cases in which innocent people were wrongly accused of crimes because police neglected to follow up with other investigative work.

There are also fears that law enforcement is invading people’s privacy. With more surveillance cameras expected to be installed in the coming years, privacy advocates are calling for judicious use of the devices.

According to the NPA, the number of criminal cases built by the police last year totaled 22,318. Of those, 5.9 percent, or 12,994, involved footage from security or dashboard cameras to positively identify suspects.

Surveillance footage has now become “indispensable in investigations,” a senior NPA official said, with data showing the footage has proven effective, mainly in uncovering street crimes.

As of last March, 1,530 security cameras had been installed by police across the country. Numerous security cameras have also been installed by private firms and individuals.

The data also showed that the number of suspected crimes that came to police attention in 2016 was 996,204, down 9.4 percent from a year earlier and below 1 million for the first time in postwar history. That equates to 7.8 cases per 1,000 people, also a fresh postwar low.

Among the crimes, the number of attempted murder and murder cases totaled 896, down 37 from the previous year and the lowest since the end of World War II.

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