Stars of CCTV

May 7, 2008 at 10:42 am | Posted in Big Brother Britain, British Politics | 3 Comments
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Image by Flickr user jordi.martorell (Creative Commons)

I’ve always had mixed feelings about Big Brother Britain. On the one hand, roadside speed cameras and the surveillance of motorways, airports, transport interchanges and other public buildings is a public safety necessity. I can also see no good reason why CCTV shouldn’t be installed in areas of high crime, and I’ve never felt particularly spied-upon whilst walking the streets of London – not because I have nothing to hide, but because I don’t feel I have anything to fear. Lastly, if your opposition is based on the infringement of freedoms CCTV represents, your first step must surely be to campaign against the roughly 3,000 new offences Labour’s put on the statute book since 1997.

On the other hand, I’m not in favour of wasting money on ineffective policing methods, and you’ve got to admit the revelation that only 3% of all crimes are solved by CCTV cameras doesn’t reflect well on their effectiveness. I can’t help but wonder, though, whether that statistic remains quite so alarming when it’s properly interrogated. Okay, so only 1 crime in 30 is solved by CCTV, but many crimes are committed in the home or in the workplace, on the road or at night when CCTV is inevitably less effective. Many crimes take place near CCTV systems that aren’t operated by local authorities and therefore no-one’s obligated to maintain them. Lastly, many crimes are prosecuted where the evidence is so substantial that CCTV footage, if it even existed, wasn’t required in court.

So I think Chief Inspector Neville’s statistic was arrived-at by asking the wrong question. The question shouldn’t be “how many crimes were prosecuted with the help of CCTV?”, but “how many unresolved crimes occurred in areas where CCTV was operational?” When you ask that question, the failure rate probably decreases dramatically.

The bottom line for me is this: is investment in CCTV the most cost-effective way of fighting crime? If, as the Independent suggests, it costs hundreds of thousands of pounds to keep these systems operational, is that money being spent wisely or do you get more value from diverting it towards traditional policiing like late night foot patrols? If it turns out that CCTV is the most cost-effective way of cutting/prosecuting crime, then I can probably cope with having my picture taken coming out of Bungalows & Bears for a cigarette.

Well, providing they don’t tell my mother, at least…

Photo by Flickr user jordi.martorell (Creative Commons)



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  1. Thanks for the information on this, it’s very useful and the site is great.

    We live in a very different society compared to 20 years ago. I remember we used to leave the front door open at night and not be too bothered if we left the car doors/windows open (if there was no rain of course!) but how things have changed hey. We have a small business in Shropshire and have just installed a CCTV security system from Interwatch Security. We’re not that technical but they came in and recommended a certain type of camera and since the IP cameras have been installed and physically noticed outside our offices in Shrewsbury and Telford the number of incidents has been reduced. I wish I was back in the 80’s where surveillance was not an issue.

  2. Thanks for the information on this, it’s very useful and the site is great.

  3. It’s interesting

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