Cities in China are under the heaviest CCTV surveillance in the world, according to a new analysis by Comparitech. However, this is only based upon cameras per 1,000 people.

This year, we’ve expanded our study to look at the number of cameras per square mile with Delhi, London, and Chennai all having more cameras per square mile than any Chinese city we covered. Residents living in cities across the US, Russia, Mexico, and South Korea 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.

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:

  • 16 out of the top 20 most surveilled cities (based on the number of cameras per 1,000 people) are in China. London, Indore, Hyderabad, and Delhi were the only cities outside of China to make the top 20, taking third, fourth, twelfth, and sixteenth place respectively
  • 11 out of the top 20 most surveilled cities (based on the number of cameras per square mile) are in China. Delhi, London, Chennai, Singapore, Seoul, Moscow, New York, Mumbai, and Mexico City all feature within the top twenty. Delhi, London, and Chennai all have more cameras per square mile than any Chinese city
  • By the end of this year, 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 – cameras per person

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 3,975,985 people = 117.02 cameras per 1,000 people
  2. Wuxi, China – 300,000 cameras for 3,315,113 people = 90.49 cameras per 1,000 people
  3. London, England (UK) – 691,000 cameras for 9,425,622 people = 73.31 cameras per 1,000 people
  4. Indore, India – 200,600 cameras per 3,113,445 people = 64.43 cameras per 1,000 people
  5. Changsha, China – 262,000 cameras for 4,694,722 people = 55.81 cameras per 1,000 people
  6. Beijing, China – 1,150,000 cameras for 20,896,820 people = 55.03 cameras per 1,000 people
  7. Hangzhou, China – 400,000 cameras for 7,845,501 people = 50.98 cameras per 1,000 people
  8. Qingdao, China – 262,000 cameras for 5,742,486 people = 45.62 cameras per 1,000 people
  9. Kunming, China – 200,000 cameras for 4,550,831 people = 43.95 cameras per 1,000 people
  10. Xiamen, China – 150,000 cameras for 3,790,792 people = 39.57 cameras per 1,000 people
  11. Harbin, China – 250,000 cameras for 6,526,439 people = 38.13 cameras per 1,000 people
  12. Hyderabad, India – 375,000 cameras for 10,268,653 people = 36.52 cameras per 1,000 people
  13. Suzhou, China – 270,000 cameras for 7,427,096 people = 36.35 cameras per 1,000 people
  14. Shanghai, China – 1,000,000 cameras for 27,795,702 people = 35.98 cameras per 1,000 people
  15. Urumqi, China – 160,000 cameras for 4,543,684 people = 35.21 cameras per 1,000 people
  16. Delhi, India – 551,500 cameras for 16,349,831 people = 33.73 cameras per 1,000 people
  17. Chengdu, China – 310,000 cameras for 9,305,116 people = 33.32 cameras per 1,000 people
  18. Shenzhen, China – 400,000 cameras for 12,591,696 people = 31.77 cameras per 1,000 people
  19. Ji’nan, China – 160,000 cameras for 5,513,597 people = 29.02 cameras per 1,000 people
  20. Shenyang, China – 200,000 cameras for 7,373,655 people = 27.12 cameras per 1,000 people

The 20 most surveilled cities in the world – cameras per square mile

  1. Delhi, India – 551,500 cameras for 302 square miles = 1826.58 cameras per square mile
  2. London, United Kingdom – 691,000 cameras for 607 square miles = 1,138.48 cameras per square mile
  3. Chennai, India – 280,000 cameras for 459 square miles = 609.92 cameras per square mile
  4. Shenzhen, China – 400,000 cameras for 769 square miles = 520.08 cameras per square mile
  5. Wuxi, China – 300,000 cameras for 635 square miles = 472.66 cameras per square mile
  6. Qingdao, China – 262,000 cameras for 630 square miles = 415.80 cameras per square mile
  7. Shanghai, China – 1,000,000 cameras for 2,448 square miles = 408.49 cameras per square mile
  8. Singapore, Singapore – 108,981 cameras for 281 square miles = 387.56 cameras per square mile
  9. Changsha, China – 262,000 cameras for 740 square miles = 353.85 cameras per square mile
  10. Wuhan, China – 200,000 cameras for 590 square miles = 339.01 cameras per square mile
  11. Seoul, South Korea – 77,564 cameras for 234 square miles = 331.94 cameras per square mile
  12. Xiamen, China – 150,000 cameras for 656 square miles = 228.66 cameras per square mile
  13. Moscow, Russia – 203,600 cameras for 970 square miles = 210.01 cameras per square mile
  14. New York, United States – 58,190 cameras for 300 square miles = 193.72 cameras per square mile
  15. Beijing, China – 1,150,000 cameras for 6,336 square miles = 181.49 cameras per square mile
  16. Taiyuan, China – 465,255 cameras for 2,668 square miles = 174.39 cameras per square mile
  17. Suzhou, China – 270,000 cameras for 1,630 square miles = 165.63 cameras per square mile
  18. Mumbai, India – 68,988 cameras for 438 square miles = 157.43 cameras per square mile
  19. Mexico City, Mexico – 87,000 cameras for 573 square miles = 151.74 cameras per square mile
  20. Changchun, China – 100,000 cameras for 716 square miles = 139.62 cameras per square mile

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 and per square mile:

  1. Tokyo, Japan – 39,504 cameras for 37,339,804 people = 1.06 cameras per 1,000 people and 7.54 cameras per square mile
  2. Shanghai, China – 1,000,000 cameras for 27,795,702 people = 35.98 cameras per 1,000 people and 408.49 cameras per square mile
  3. São Paulo, Brazil – 22,175 cameras for 22,237,472 people = 1.00 cameras per 1,000 people and 7.23 cameras per square mile
  4. Mexico City, Mexico – 87,000 cameras for 21,918,936 people = 3.97 cameras per 1,000 people and 151.74 cameras per square mile
  5. Dhaka, Bangladesh – 16,000 cameras for 21,741,090 people = 0.74 cameras per 1,000 people and 138.13 cameras per square mile
  6. Cairo, Egypt – 46,552 cameras for 21,322,750 people = 2.18 cameras per 1,000 people and 39.08 cameras per square mile
  7. Beijing, China – 1,150,000 cameras for 20,896,820 people = 55.03 cameras per 1,000 people and 181.49 cameras per square mile
  8. Mumbai, India – 68,988 cameras for 20,667,656 people = 3.34 cameras per 1,000 people and 157.43 cameras per square mile
  9. Osaka, Japan – 30,000 cameras for 19,110,616 people = 1.57 cameras per 1,000 people and 5.96 cameras per square mile
  10. Karachi, Pakistan – Conflicting figures (ranging by thousands) so omitted
  11. Chongqing, China – 290,000 cameras for 16,382,376 people = 17.70 cameras per 1,000 people and 17.11 cameras per square mile
  12. Delhi, India – 551,500 cameras for 16,349,831 people = 33.73 cameras per 1,000 people and 1,826.58 cameras per square mile
  13. Istanbul, Turkey – 109,000 cameras for 15,415,197 people = 7.07 cameras per 1,000 people and 54.33 cameras per square mile
  14. Buenos Aires, Argentina – 24,743 cameras for 15,257,673 people = 1.62 cameras per 1,000 people and 13.47 cameras per square mile
  15. Kolkata, India – 22,316 cameras for 14,974,073 people = 1.49 cameras per 1,000 people and 56.28 cameras per square mile
  16. Lagos, Nigeria – No known cameras
  17. Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo – No data available
  18. Manila, Philippines – 3,086 cameras for 14,158,573 people = 0.22 cameras per 1,000 people and 11.17 cameras per square mile
  19. Tianjin, China – 350,000 cameras for 13,794,450 people = 25.37 cameras per 1,000 people and 75.88 cameras per square mile
  20. Guangzhou, China – 300,000 cameras for 13,635,397 people = 22 cameras per 1,000 people and 104.51 cameras per square mile

CCTV, crime, and safety

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.

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.

Correlation between CCTV camera figures and crime rates

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. However, if each of the cities we covered in our study did have one camera for every two people, here’s how the figures may change:

While it goes without saying that the highest number of cameras are found in the most populated cities, we can see that some cities will have a far higher density of cameras than others (per square mile). Based on these calculations Shenzhen would have 8,186 cameras per square mile, followed by Wuhan with 7,181 and Shanghai with 5,677 per square mile. But what’s perhaps most surprising is that over ten cities still have a lower camera density per square mile than the likes of Delhi (1,827) and London (1,138).

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. This year, the city of Indore in India replaced the city of Pyongyang in North Korea. Delhi’s population was adjusted to include only the metropolitan area which our camera figures cover.

Our city sizes were taken from government sources or citypopulation.de where we found the area size that correlated best with the population figures we have. Often, this is the metropolitan area rather than the city as camera figures spread into these areas, especially on subways and buses.

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, Indore, 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 cities omitted due to lack of data are: Changzhou, Dar Es Salaam, Douala. Faisalabad, Jeddah, Kanpur, Karachi, Kinshasa, Kumasi, Kuwait City, Malappuram, Nagoya, Ningbo, Port Harcourt, Pyongyang, Shantou, and Yaounde.

Sources: For a full list of sources by country, please request access here.

Data researcher: Rebecca Moody

Update 06/08: Moscow’s figures have been updated (from 193,000 to 203,600) following an update from the government of Moscow. This doesn’t affect any of the rankings.

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