The world's most-surveilled cities

Cities in China are under the heaviest CCTV surveillance in the world, according to a new analysis by Comparitech. However, some residents living in cities across the UK and India will also find themselves surrounded by a large number of watchful eyes, as our look at the number of public CCTV cameras in the 150 most populated cities worldwide found.

Closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras serve many purposes, ranging from crime prevention to traffic monitoring to observing industrial operations in environments not suitable for humans. The digital age has boosted the prevalence of CCTV surveillance. Cameras are getting better and cheaper, while live video streams can be remotely accessed, stored on the internet, and passed around. The adoption of face recognition technology makes it possible for both public and private entities to instantly check the identity of anyone who passes by a CCTV camera.

Depending on whom you ask, the increased prevalence and capabilities of CCTV surveillance could make society safer and more efficient, could trample on our rights to privacy and freedom of movement, or both. No matter which side you argue, the fact is that live video surveillance is ramping up worldwide.

Comparitech researchers collated a number of data resources and reports, including government reports, police websites, and news articles, to get some idea of the number of CCTV cameras in use in 150 major cities across the globe. We focused primarily on public CCTV—cameras used by government entities such as law enforcement.

Here are our key findings:

  • 18 out of the top 20 most surveilled cities are in China
  • London and Hyderabad were the only cities outside of China to make the top 20, with London taking third place and Hyderabad sixteenth
  • By 2021, over one billion surveillance cameras will be installed worldwide, according to IHS Markit’s latest report
  • Globally, there are already 770 million cameras in use with 54% of these being in China
  • We found little correlation between the number of public CCTV cameras and crime or safety

The 20 most surveilled cities in the world

Based on the number of cameras per 1,000 people, these cities are the top 20 most surveilled in the world:

  1. Taiyuan, China – 465,255 cameras for 3,891,127 people = 119.57 cameras per 1,000 people
  2. Wuxi, China – 300,000 cameras for 3,256,020 people = 92.14 cameras per 1,000 people
  3. London, England (UK) – 627,727 cameras for 9,304,016 people = 67.47 cameras per 1,000 people
  4. Changsha, China – 260,000 cameras for 4,577,723 people = 56.80 cameras per 1,000 people
  5. Beijing, China – 1,150,000 cameras for 20,462,610 people = 56.20 cameras per 1,000 people
  6. Hangzhou, China – 400,000 cameras for 7,642,147 people = 52.34 cameras per 1,000 people
  7. Kunming, China – 200,000 cameras for 4,443,186 people = 45.01 cameras per 1,000 people
  8. Qingdao, China – 250,000 cameras for 5,619,977 people = 44.48 cameras per 1,000 people
  9. Xiamen, China – 150,000 cameras for 3,720,141 people = 40.32 cameras per 1,000 people
  10. Harbin, China – 250,000 cameras for 6,387,195 people = 39.14 cameras per 1,000 people
  11. Suzhou, China – 270,000 cameras for 7,069,992 people = 38.19 cameras per 1,000 people
  12. Shanghai, China – 1,000,000 cameras for 27,058,480 people = 39.96 cameras per 1,000 people
  13. Urumqi, China – 160,000 cameras for 4,368,865 people = 36.62 cameras per 1,000 people
  14. Chengdu, China – 310,000 cameras for 9,135,768 people = 33.93 cameras per 1,000 people
  15. Shenzhen, China – 400,000 cameras for 12,356,820 people = 32.37 cameras per 1,000 people
  16. Hyderabad, India – 300,000 cameras for 10,004,144 people = 29.99 cameras per 1,000 people
  17. Ji’nan, China – 160,000 cameras for 5,360,185 people = 29.85 cameras per 1,000 people
  18. Shenyang, China – 200,000 cameras for 7,220,104 people = 27.70 cameras per 1,000 people
  19. Hefei, China – 113,795 cameras for 4,241,514 people = 26.83 cameras per 1,000 people
  20. Tianjin, China – 350,000 cameras for 13,589,078 people = 25.76 cameras per 1,000 people

The top 50 most-surveilled cities

CityCountry# of CCTV Cameras# of People # of CCTV Cameras per 1,000 PeopleCrime Index
TaiyuanChina465,2553,891,127119.5751.47
WuxiChina300,0003,256,02092.147.84
LondonEngland (UK)627,7279,304,01667.4752.56
ChangshaChina260,0004,577,72356.8022.68
BeijingChina1,150,00020,462,61056.2034.52
HangzhouChina400,0007,642,14752.3421.46
KunmingChina200,0004,443,18645.0129.17
QingdaoChina250,0005,619,97744.487.42
XiamenChina150,0003,720,14140.3219.09
HarbinChina250,0006,387,19539.1430.17
SuzhouChina270,0007,069,99238.1916.63
ShanghaiChina1,000,00027,058,48036.9635.54
UrumqiChina160,0004,368,86536.6226.72
ChengduChina310,0009,135,76833.9324.18
ShenzhenChina400,00012,356,82032.3733.43
HyderabadIndia300,00010,004,14429.9943.46
Ji'nanChina160,0005,360,18529.8515.79
ShenyangChina200,0007,220,10427.7022.18
HefeiChina113,7954,241,51426.8311.03
TianjinChina350,00013,589,07825.7630.28
ChennaiIndia280,00010,971,10825.5240.68
NanjingChina220,0008,847,37224.8713.31
WuhanChina200,0008,364,97723.9124.45
ChangchunChina100,0004,425,76122.5923.82
GuangzhouChina300,00013,301,53222.5540.08
ZhengzhouChina100,0005,322,69618.7921.84
ChongqingChina290,00015,872,17918.2729.58
BaghdadIraq120,0007,144,26016.8065.49
MoscowRussia193,00012,537,95415.3939.68
WenzhouChina55,1443,623,64615.2222.79
DongguanChina110,0007,407,85214.8546.73
SingaporeSingapore 86,0005,935,05314.4932.01
DelhiIndia429,50030,290,39614.1858.69
FoshanChina100,0007,326,85213.6536.4
ShijiazhuangChina54,0004,114,39313.12N/A
SydneyAustralia60,0004,925,98712.1833.45
St. PetersburgRussia55,0645,467,80810.0739.22
NanchangChina35,0003,598,4219.7326.47
NanningChina37,0003,859,6089.5922.3
LanzhouChina25,2003,080,5228.18N/A
Xinbei (New Taipei City)Taiwan35,0004,398,3837.9629.03
IstanbulTurkey109,00015,190,3367.1847.37
Hong KongHong Kong50,0007,547,6526.6220.91
GuiyangChina20,0003,317,1106.03N/A
DalianChina32,0005,617,8495.7017.53
Los AngelesUnited States22,6784,015,9405.6546.5
XianChina45,0008,000,9655.62N/A
BangkokThailand57,77010,539,4155.4841.46
GuadalajaraMexico25,6725,179,4794.9662.66
BerlinGermany17,4643,562,0384.9041.08

This spreadsheet contains the figures for all 150 countries and the source for each number.

The 20 most populated cities in the world (and their camera figures)

As most of the heaviest surveilled cities aren’t in the top 20 most populated cities, let’s see how the world’s most heavily-populated cities compare when it comes to their camera figures per 1,000 people:

  1. Tokyo, Japan – 39,504 cameras for 37,393,129 people = 1.06 cameras per 1,000 people
  2. Delhi, India – 429,500 cameras for 30,290,396 people = 14.18 cameras per 1,000 people
  3. Shanghai, China – 1,000,000 cameras for 27,058,480 people = 39.96 cameras per 1,000 people
  4. São Paulo, Brazil – 4,823 cameras for 22,043,028 people = 0.22 cameras per 1,000 people
  5. Mexico City, Mexico – 87,000 cameras for 21,782,378 people = 3.99 cameras per 1,000 people
  6. Dhaka, Bangladesh – 16,000 cameras for 21,005,860 people = 0.76 cameras per 1,000 people
  7. Cairo, Egypt – 750 cameras for 20,900,604 people = 0.04 cameras per 1,000 people
  8. Beijing, China – 1,150,000 cameras for 20,462,610 people = 56.20 cameras per 1,000 people
  9. Mumbai, India – 9,800 cameras for 20,411,274 people = 0.48 cameras per 1,000 people
  10. Osaka, Japan – 2,120 cameras for 19,165,340 people = 0.11 cameras per 1,000 people
  11. Karachi, Pakistan – 64,449 cameras for 16,093,786 people = 4.00 cameras per 1,000 people
  12. Chongqing, China – 290,000 cameras for 15,872,179 people = 18.27 cameras per 1,000 people
  13. Istanbul, Turkey – 109,000 cameras for 15,190,336 people = 7.18 cameras per 1,000 people
  14. Buenos Aires, Argentina – 15,700 cameras for 15,153,729 people = 1.04 cameras per 1,000 people
  15. Kolkata, India – 13,800 cameras for 14,850,066 people = 0.93 cameras per 1,000 people
  16. Lagos, Nigeria – No data available
  17. Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo – No data available
  18. Manila, Philippines – 300 cameras for 13,923,452 people = 0.02 cameras per 1,000 people
  19. Tianjin, China – 350,000 cameras for 13,589,078 people = 25.76 cameras per 1,000 people
  20. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – 14,000 cameras for 13,458,075 people = 1.04 cameras per 1,000 people

CCTV, crime, and safety

A primary argument in favor of CCTV surveillance is improved law enforcement and crime prevention. We compared the number of public CCTV cameras with the crime indices reported by Numbeo, which are based on surveys of that site’s visitors.

As you can see from the above chart, a higher number of cameras just barely correlates with a lower crime index.

Broadly speaking, more cameras doesn’t necessarily reduce crime rates.

China leads the world in CCTV surveillance

Estimates vary on the number of CCTV cameras in China, but IHS Markit’s latest report suggests that 54 percent of the world’s 770 million surveillance cameras are situated in China, meaning there are approximately 415.8 million located in the country. If this percentage remains the same as camera levels grow to 1 billion in the next year, China’s CCTV camera count could rise to as much as 540 million.

Based on the country’s current population of 1.4 billion people, that would mean nearly one camera for every two people. Although this projection might seem vast, it may be a fraction of the actual number.

China is also a fervent adopter of face recognition surveillance. It is often used to restrict individuals’ freedom of movement, such as restricting access to public transportation. Cameras equipped with face recognition technology are put in place at transportation hubs to enforce these rules.

Methodology

Comparitech researchers collated a number of resources to get an estimate of the number of public CCTV cameras in use. We focused on the world’s 150 most heavily-populated cities but omitted any city where we couldn’t find enough data.

Due to new data from authoritative sources, some figures may be considerably higher or lower than our previous study which relied on some estimates.

Where possible, we have only included public CCTV cameras, including cameras installed on public buildings, cameras used by law enforcement, cameras installed on public transport, and traffic cameras with surveillance capabilities (i.e. automatic number plate recognition). However, in some instances, it may not be clear what cameras are included, meaning some private camera figures may also be included in the totals. We believe this may be the case for London and Sydney.

Due to a wide range of sources reporting estimates and a general lack of public information regarding CCTV cameras, actual figures may be higher or lower than what is indicated. To try and ensure our study is as fair and accurate as possible, we have opted for the lower figure where two different ones have been quoted.

Most of the data sources used are from the last few years but, in some cases, only older data sources were found. The dates of the sources are listed in the spreadsheet linked above.

The countries omitted due to lack of data are: Bekasi, Alexandria, Addis Abada, Thrissur, Chittagong, Fuzhou, Douala, Yaounde, Changzhou, Ningbo, Shantou, Kinshasa, Kumasi, Kanpur, Malappuram, Nagoya, Kuwait City, Port Harcourt, Abuja, Ibadan, Kano, Pyongyang, Faisalabad, Jeddah, Dar Es Salaam, and Ankara.

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