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CCTV isn’t working!

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Big Brother“Big Brother” cannot save us from crime

Massive investment in CCTV cameras to prevent crime in the UK has failed to have a significant impact, despite billions of pounds spent on the new technology, a senior police officer piloting a new database has warned. Only 3% of street robberies in London were solved using CCTV images, despite the fact that Britain has more security cameras than any other country in Europe.

Well, no surprises here then.

I’ve been beating this drum for two years at least now and my opposition is based on the same perceptions as those revealed by Detective Chief Inspector Mick Neville, the officer in charge of the Metropolitan police unit, with a few other points to add.

CCTV cameras are all around us, there are literally hundreds, perhaps thousands in South Shields alone, on streets, in buses, on Metro trains, in the train stations, in shops and offices and public buildings, they were put there by some over officious clowns who thought that they would make us feel safer as went about our lives. They thought that the cameras would be a great deterrent against crime, something in which they have singularly failed. They are the apparatus of the Big Brother state a tool that will eventually develop into the creation of another great database, this time collating our images as our lives are recorded for the greater safety of mankind.

Criminals have no fear of CCTV cameras, we see pictures almost daily on television screens and in newspapers asking if we “recognise these faces”, the camera did no prevent the execution of the crime, the deterrent failed, it’s only use now is as a (fairly poor) investigative tool. Hence the calls now for the development and building of yet another dangerous piece in the surveillance society’s armoury, the digital image database.

It’s time for our politicians to wake up to the dangers in these calls, building bigger databases is not the answer to crime, neither is the greater proliferation of more technically proficient CCTV cameras and operations rooms filled with extremely bored personnel monitoring the screens. Criminals will only be deterred when they see more uniformed policemen and women on our streets (not in stations filling out triplicate forms), communities will begin to feel safer when individuals have the courage to pick up the telephone and tell the police that they’ve just seen Johnny daubing on a wall, or running out of the corner shop with the takings stuffed into his pockets! When society starts to favour and value the important individuals who make the whole, then we may start to see results.

Community policing is part of the answer to crime, reducing the wastage of police time is another great step forward, the role of the CPS and it’s bureaucratic straight jacket needs to be re-assessed. Once the police have some of their restrictive administrative tasks removed they will feel less encumbered and be able to integrate more effectively with their community neighbourhoods, we might even get back to the days when the policeman was seen as our friend! The greatest steps forward in the fight against crime will come when we feel sure that the telephone call to the police will be responded to quickly, and when both sides feel sure that the giving and taking of a statement and/or the identification of a suspect will lead to satisfactory results. This human intelligence is worth far more to the police and the courts than the poorly lit grainy image from a CCTV camera.

The other deterrent has to be sentencing, and again the philosophy here has to be that it values the rights, the sensitivities, and the strengths of the individuals who make up society, and more importantly when sentencing is seen to mean something to the victims of crime will we all feel that something is being achieved. The present perception is that sentencing is seen as something that favours the criminal with Labour’s policies of early release schemes and under investment in the Prison Service devaluing the efforts of the police.

Back to Detective Chief Inspector Mick Neville;

It’s been an utter fiasco: only 3% of crimes were solved by CCTV. There’s no fear of CCTV. Why don’t people fear it? [They think] the cameras are not working.”

More training was needed for officers. Often they do not want to find CCTV images “because it’s hard work”. Sometimes the police did not bother inquiring beyond local councils to find out whether CCTV cameras monitored a particular street incident.

Sounds like a very familiar story, right on the first point, right on the second point, but utterly wrong about his proposed solution;

“We are [beginning] to collate images from across London. This has got to be balanced against any Big Brother concerns, with safeguards. The images are from thefts, robberies and more serious crimes. Possibly the [database] could be national in future.”

The right solution lies in the education of children, and the willingness of families and communities to accept responsibility for their actions and the consequences, when criminal behaviour is seen and accepted as totally wrong, repugnant, and socially destructive, then society as a whole will move towards better self policing and gain a more cooperative strategy with it’s local neighbourhood police. Greater intrusive incursions into our privacy and the collating of more personal information is unlikely to increase our cooperation with the state!

We don’t need “Big Brother” just better mums, dads, teachers, and role models, and a willingness to supply information about criminal activity without fearing being labelled “a grass”.

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Written by curly

May 6, 2008 at 10:03 am

Posted in Crime, Culture, I.T., News, privacy

Tagged with , ,

One Response

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  1. An incident occurred recently in my street when a neighbour had their windows shattered during the night. I received a note through my letter box (whilst I was in the house) from an officer in Northumbria Police asking me to either write or telephone if I had any information about this incident. Not a knock with a friendly policeman on my doorstep asking relevant questions, rather a faceless typewritten note.

    Several questions arise. First, is this the latest version of door-to-door enquiries? Secondly,who spent time in the police station typing out this notice rather than being out on the streets? Thirdly, is Northumbria Police going to reimburse me for the cost of either the letter or telephone call? I thought I paid my contribution to policing via the Council Tax. Why should I now have to pay extra to do the job of the policeman? And were there any CCTV images in this case? Whole system needs turning upside down so that we get what we are paying for.


    May 6, 2008 at 12:37 pm

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