China is home to 18 of the world’s 20 most surveilled cities according to a new study by the British technology website Comparitech.
The Chinese government has installed more than 20 million cameras throughout the country, with millions more expected by 2020.
Beijing, with 1.15 million cameras installed, tops the list in terms of real number of surveillance cameras (around 60 cameras per 1,000 people), followed closely by Shanghai with 1 million cameras.
But Taiyuan, capital of the central province of Shanxi, is the most monitored city on a per capita basis.
Taiyuan has about 465,000 cameras for nearly 4 million people – more than 110 cameras per 1,000.
But curiously, a closely monitored population doesn’t necessarily translate to significant decreases in crime.
“A primary argument in favour of closed-circuit television (CCTV) surveillance is improved law enforcement and crime prevention … [But] a higher number of cameras just barely correlates with a lower crime index,” the study reads.
“While [cameras] may have a deterrent effect, in some cases it just means that crime is displaced to an area without surveillance, rather than just cancelled,” said Severine Arsene, an adjunct assistant professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong who researches Chinese digital policy for the Centre for China Studies.
Mass public surveillance can focus law enforcement efforts on street crime, such as theft and aggression, but cameras cannot capture crimes that happen away from public view, like financial crimes and tax evasion, Arsene says.
Of non-Chinese cities, London ranked third on the list, while Hyderabad in India took 16th place.
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