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Do Security Cameras Deter Crime?

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Gabe Turner
Gabe Turner Chief Editor
Last Updated Jul 15, 2024

Editor’s Note: We recommend using cameras as part of a home security system. But you’ll get better home protection with a SimpliSafe security system. Right now SimpliSafe is offering a free security camera with every new system purchase.

We know that with their ability to detect movement and record videos, security cameras can help catch criminals. We’ve pretty much confirmed that with our break-in simulations – a part of our security camera testing process.

In home security, though, the goal isn’t just to detect crime when it happens. You should aim to deter crime. So are security cameras as effective in deterring crime as it is in detecting it?

Lorex Camera on Box
Lorex Camera on Box

Do Security Cameras Deter Crime?

No security camera can deter criminals 100 percent. If that were the case, then we wouldn’t have those “thief caught on camera” tapes on video sharing sites like YouTube.

There are also numerous studies and research showing that security cameras both do and don’t prevent crime. So, which ones should we believe? First, let’s look at the arguments from both sides.

Do Security Cameras Deter Crime

The Case For Cameras

  • KTVB7: A local television station in Oregon interviewed 86 inmates currently serving time for burglary and found that most of them would leave immediately if an alarm went off or if they saw security cameras on the property. However, in that same study, a few of the inmates said that they see security alarms and cameras as an indication that there are valuables inside.1
  • Municipal Technical Advisory Service: A comprehensive look at multiple academic studies found that yes, CCTV cameras are effective in deterring crime. However, they’re more effective when paired with other elements like lighting2 (we’ll talk more about how to boost the effectiveness of your security cameras in a bit).
  • UNC Department of Criminal Justice & Criminology: Similar to the KTVB7 study above, the UNC Department of Criminal Justice & Criminology surveyed 422 burglars and found that half of them considered outdoor security cameras as effective deterrents.3
Deterrence Measure Effectiveness Overall % (rounded to nearest whole number)
Police nearby 64%
Indications of alarms 53%
Outdoor cameras 50%
Outdoor lighting 16%
Neighborhood watch 13%
Security sign 25%
  • Rutgers University School of Criminal Justice: A study of the nearby city Newark, New Jersey showed that residential burglar alarm systems decrease crime at homes and in the city overall. While many people believe that security cameras merely displace crime to other houses, the Rutgers study showed that they make entire neighborhoods safer. “Neighborhoods in which burglar alarms were densely installed have fewer incidents of residential burglaries than the neighborhoods with fewer burglar alarms,” said the study.4
  • FBI Uniform Crime Reporting: Another myth about security cameras is that even if they do deter crime, their prices still don’t make them worth it. However, the most affordable security cameras can cost as little as $35 like the Wyze Cam V2, and considering the fact that the average dollar loss per burglary was $2,416 in 2017 according to FBI data,5 these cameras can pay for themselves tenfold.
  • Urban Institute: Finally, a study from the Urban Institute placed cameras in Baltimore, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. In downtown Baltimore specifically, the 500 cameras led to a huge reduction in crime by an average of 30 incidents per month, with no evidence of displacement. Similarly, the more than 8,000 cameras installed throughout Chicago were responsible for almost a 12 percent estimated reduction in crime.6 However, not all of the data was this positive, which brings us to our next point…
ReoLink Go
ReoLink Go

The Case Against Cameras

  • Queen’s University: While functioning security cameras have been proven to deter crime, that’s only the case when they function correctly. Looking at camera systems from 2001 to 2003, the Queen’s University Surveillance Studies Centre found 168 technical failures preventing evidence from being used in criminal trials.7 Of course, smart home technology has greatly improved since 2003, although of course, technical failures can still occur.
  • Lincoln Police Department: Not all security cameras have been shown to deter crime. For example, cameras placed in a downtown bar street in Lincoln, Nebraska didn’t help any police officers identify criminals, bolster their evidence or prevent crimes from happening. In fact, while the cameras were up and running, there were 128 assaults within 500 feet,8 so the cameras didn’t do anything to deter crime in this case.
  • Urban Institute: Even though there was crime deterrence in downtown Baltimore and in Chicago, the Urban Institute found that surveillance systems have their limitations. Whether it’s panning at the wrong time, failing to capture events in their entirety or losing a clear picture at night or in bad weather, security cameras aren’t foolproof. Plus, they didn’t affect crime rates in D.C or in other areas of Baltimore, so the study was mixed despite being positive overall.
Ring Spotlight Cam Battery With Light On
Ring Spotlight Cam Battery With Light On

The Verdict

Looking at those studies, more of them seem to prove that security cameras can deter burglars and crime. Except for the few inmates in the KTVB7 study that said security cameras can be a sign of a wealthy target, the consensus is that security cameras don’t encourage crime. We take that as a positive.

Besides that, the studies also show that when used with other security measures, you can boost the effectiveness of security cameras. The UNC research lists other things burglars deem effective as deterrents, such as:

  • Alarm systems
  • Outdoor lighting
  • Security signs

Apart from that, our own experience in testing security cameras has shown us that security camera placement plays a crucial factor in keeping criminals at bay. So bottom line: It’s how you use your security cameras and other security equipment that deters burglars.

Do Security Signs Deter Burglars?

The studies above also found that security signs are effective to some extent. One in four burglars would move on if they saw security signs across the property, according to the UNC study. And unlike security cameras that can cost hundreds of dollars, you can buy security signs for less than $10. But are they really effective?

Once again, there are two trains of thought here.

  • Pro: Security signs indicate the presence of a security system even if you don’t actually have one. That’s the primary reason they can work as deterrents.
  • Con: Well-versed burglars know which alarm companies operate in the area. If you put up a fake yard sign with the name of a fake alarm company, it confirms to them that you don’t actually have a security system.

Just like with security cameras, it’s about how you use security signs. We don’t recommend using them as a bluff; meaning, don’t put up security signs if you don’t have a security system. Burglars migh call your bluff. It’s a 50-50 chance, and if they do call it and you don’t have security measures in place, you end up on the losing end.

If you do have a security system, putting up yard signs to increase visibility and let burglars know your house is protected is a good idea. Just make sure your security system is top-notch and that it doesn’t have any known vulnerabilities, because if it does, the burglar can exploit those weaknesses and use them to sneak into your home.

Nest Cam IQ Outdoor
Nest Cam IQ Outdoor

Should You Hide Your Security Camera?

When you think of security cameras, you may think of cameras covered behind trees, disguised as rocks or otherwise hidden from view. However, many studies have shown that burglars that see homes with security cameras are less likely to choose those homes to burgle, so having hidden cameras defeats this purpose. Keep your outdoor cameras visible so that they can prevent crime from taking place rather than just capturing it passively.

Vivint Outdoor Camera Pro
Vivint Outdoor Camera Pro

Pro Tip: Make sure that your security cameras are visible so that they can deter burglars from choosing your home to burgle.

How To Boost the Effectiveness of Security Cameras

Once you’ve placed your security cameras both inside and outside of your home, there are a few other steps you can take to deter crime even more.

How To Boost the Effectiveness of Security Cameras

Boost Security Cameras Effectiveness

  1. Signs and systems: Just as two heads are better than one, a complete home security system with visible signs and alarms is better than just security cameras. If you’re looking for a comprehensive security system with signs and alarms, read our Frontpoint review and our Frontpoint pricing page.
  2. Visibility: While we don’t want to sound like a broken record, make sure that these security elements are visible to potential burglars, alerting them that your house isn’t worth the risk.
  3. Lights: Outdoor lighting, particularly motion-activated lighting, can literally shine a spotlight on criminals, increasing their visibility. Many cameras like the Ring Spotlight Cam Battery have spotlights built-in. This is a form of active deterrence, which means built-in audio and visual warnings from cameras.
  4. Sirens and voices: Other forms of active deterrence include cameras with built-in sirens and speakers. Vivint security cameras, such as the Vivint Outdoor Camera Pro, has a form of AI called Smart Sentry. In a nutshell, if anyone is loitering, it will turn on LED lights and play a tune. Similarly, the Deep Sentinel cameras have 104-decibel sirens, about as loud as a table saw, that can sound whenever the Live Sentinel Guards see fit. Throw in some strobing red and white lights and the criminal is sure to be, well, actively deterred.
  5. Night vision: Good night vision is imperative with security cameras. If they lack lights that enable color night vision, the security cameras should have infrared LED sensors to create a clear picture in the dark. Learn more about the best infrared cameras that we’ve tested.
  6. Durability: Last but certainly not least, look for a camera that can withstand the weather conditions in your area, checking for its temperature range along with its IP rating.
Blue by ADT Outdoor Camera Night Vision
Blue by ADT Outdoor Camera Night Vision

FYI: IP ratings measure how susceptible an object is to both solids and liquids. Look for a security camera with an IP rating of at least 65, meaning it’s dust-tight and resistant to low-pressure water jets.


While there is some evidence to the contrary, in general, studies suggest that security cameras can deter crime, even without displacing it elsewhere. Of course, it’s important to get high-quality security cameras that can shoot clear footage in any time of day or weather condition, so remember: your security is only as good as your security cameras.

Deep Sentinel Camera Outside
Deep Sentinel Camera Outside

Frequently Asked Questions

We’re not done yet! Here are the questions we get the most often about how security cameras, and other security elements, deter crime.

  • Do security signs deter crime?

    Security signs do deter crime. In a study from the University of North Carolina, 25 percent of burglars said that security signs would deter them from choosing a house. However, signs are a less effective deterrent than security cameras and systems, which would deter 53 percent of burglars.

  • How do burglars choose houses?

    Burglars choose houses based on a number of factors such as the presence of:

    • Cars in the driveway, especially if they’re luxury
    • Big fences
    • Overgrown bushes or trees
    • Old or cheap window frames and doors.

    They also consider the proximity to other homes, preferring more isolated homes to burgle. This data comes from a survey of 86 inmates for burglary at the Oregon Department of Corrections from local television station KTVB7.

  • Do CCTV cameras deter crime?

    Research from the University of North Carolina, Rutgers University, and the Urban Institute have found that CCTV cameras do deter crime.

  • Are cameras a good crime deterrent?

    Cameras are a good crime deterrent, as 60 percent of most burglars will choose another target if they find alarms or cameras, according to a study from the University of North Carolina’s Department of Criminal Justice & Criminology.

  1. KTVB7. (2019). We asked 86 burglars how they broke into homes.

  2. University of Tennessee. (2016). Is There Empirical Evidence That Surveillance Cameras Reduce Crime?

  3. Research Gate. (2012). Understanding Decisions to Burglarize from the Offender's Perspective.

  4. Rutgers University. (2009). Rutgers Study Finds Alarm Systems Are Valuable Crime Fighting Tool.

  5. FBI. (2017). Burglary.

  6. Urban Institute. (2021). Evaluating the Use of Public Surveillance Cameras for Crime Control and Prevention—A Summary.

  7. Surveillance Studies Centre. (2017). FAQs.

  8. Journal Star. (2015). Police cameras generate little in first year.