Do cameras change how people behave? Learn more about our deterrence-based model.

Last Updated:
May 13, 2024
| ~
min Read
Meg Moore
Marketing Writer

Hidden cameras, a once tried-and-true primetime plot device, from “What Would You Do” to “Taxicab Confessions,” are now in plain sight. What once could surprise and delight—unless you were a celebrity falling victim to a hilarious prank on “Punk’d”—Americans now expect to appear on camera.

Surveillance cameras are everywhere and as ubiquitous as the seemingly endless choices for streaming platforms. From traffic lights and street signage to buildings, elevators, and parking lots, Rockwell’s prescient 1984 smash, “Somebody's Watching Me,” saw into the future.

With more than 1 billion security cameras installed worldwide, it’s impossible to ignore their presence. For example, according to a Safety.com study, Americans appear on camera nearly 34 times a day, an average of 238 times every week, including:

  • 160 times per week while driving
  • 40 times per week at work—unless you work in retail, where the figure is much higher
  • 24 times per week while shopping and running errands
  • 14 times per week in their homes or neighborhoods

With all these supporting roles in surveillance camera footage, does a camera’s presence change people’s behavior? And in the realm of retail, does a surveillance camera deter crime?


The reasons asset protection leaders deploy surveillance cameras begin with the psychological study of deterrence theory. The thinking is that people weigh the costs and benefits of their actions rationally before making a decision to commit a crime—or not. According to this theory, the threat of punishment is the cost, which reduces the crime’s benefits, which then should deter someone from committing the crime. 

There are two types of deterrence:

  • General deterrence sets an example for the general public by discouraging potential offenders from committing crimes because they fear facing comparable consequences.
  • Specific deterrence aims to deter an individual’s future criminal behavior by instilling fear of similar or harsher consequences, causing them to learn from their personal experience and refrain from repeating the same crime.

“Research shows clearly that the chance of being caught is a vastly more effective deterrent than even draconian punishment,” according to the National Institute of Justice, an agency of the U.S. Justice Department. “Prison sentences (particularly long sentences) are unlikely to deter future crime. Prisons actually may have the opposite effect.”

Simply put, if people know they will be caught, that’s what changes their mind about committing a crime. It’s not the fear of being punished or the severity of the punishment.


Deterrence research findings reveal that increasing the certainty of punishment, rather than increasing its severity, delivers results. For asset protection leaders, this points to establishing collaborative partnerships with law enforcement. These strategies could include:

  • Increasing the overt visibility of security cameras
  • Promoting the presence of security cameras
  • Enhancing surveillance and detection technologies
  • Establishing information-sharing networks with other retailers

Asset protection teams can deter bad actors by signaling to a criminal that being caught is a certainty. Strategies that use “sentinels,” such as an LVT Unit, a remote video surveillance trailer, have proven to be effective. A criminal’s behavior is more likely to be influenced by seeing an imposing surveillance camera trailer up close than by lawmakers enacting a new law that increases penalties.

In a recent Loss Prevention Retail Council study, LVT Units were proven to deter retail crimes, contributing to:

  • A 54% drop in burglaries
  • A 40% decrease in shoplifting
  • A 43% decrease in trespassing


To help ensure getting caught is a certainty for would-be criminals, deploying a large and noticeable deterrent, like an LVT Unit, will increase control and situational awareness for retailers’ asset protection teams. It is effective because of the LPRC’s “See-Get-Fear” method.

Here’s how it works:


For a deterrent to have an effect, would-be offenders must notice it. That’s why a camera’s overt presence is imperative. If a camera is hidden from view, a bad actor isn’t able to calculate their risk versus reward.

“Criminals generally don’t assess risk the same as others,” Read Hayes, co-director of the Loss Prevention Research Team told the University of Florida News.


Second, people must be able to identify the deterrent as one.

If an individual does not understand how the deterrent works, it has no effect. For example, if a surveillance camera looks like a smoke detector, a person won’t factor it into their risk-reward calculation. This principle has its roots in the Thomas Theorem which states "if men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences.”

Therefore, even if something that looks like a smoke detector is a camera, it will not affect behavior in the way a camera would.  


In addition to seeing the deterrent and getting its purpose, an individual must also judge it to be a real threat, either increasing:

  • Their ability to successfully commit a crime
  • The likelihood that the crime will result in negative consequences

Or, more bluntly, a surveillance camera is useless if the evidence doesn’t trigger and complete investigations and offenders evade prosecution. 


When it’s time to make it known your company is serious about the psychology of deterrence, LiveView Technologies’ enterprise security camera systems:

  • Increase safety and security
  • Prevent merchandise shrink
  • Reduce and deter loitering, theft, vandalism, and violent crime
  • Send trespassing notifications
  • Collect and transfer evidence
  • Create a perimeter
  • Monitor real-time situations
  • Gather insights into customer behaviors
  • Create and share time-lapse video

 “Crooks seek the path of least resistance which is why an ounce of prevention is truly worth a pound of the cure,” said retired asset protection leader Mike Lamb about LVT. “The bad guys see it, get it, and ultimately fear it.”

The mobile security systems are proactive, complete with integrated layers of video surveillance capabilities including 360-degree remote monitoring and robust video analytics. LVT Units include motion sensors, lights, thermal imaging, and alarm systems, which make bad actors reconsider their risk versus reward scenarios.

Ready to learn why our customers trust LVT for crime prevention? Contact our team today for a demo.

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