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South Tyneside Tory wants CCTV cameras to “be fit for purpose”

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Jeff MilburnCllr. Jeff Milburn gives mixed message

We are all used to seeing CCTV cameras on our streets and in our shops.  They are a valuable tool in the fight against crime.  Council CCTV cameras have trebled in number over the past ten years. However,  the Government’s own research shows eighty per cent of CCTV footage can’t be used to prosecute criminals.  A Conservative government would ensure CCTV is fit for purpose – with appropriate safeguards and sanctions to prevent misuse.

So says Conservative Cleadon Village Cllr. Jeff Milburn, who is to represent the party in the  Jarrow constituency of  South Tyneside at the next election. I’m not sure what he is trying to tell us that the Conservative Party would actually do about the explosion of these near to useless snooping devices that councils and privateers are erecting all over our towns and cities in the UK, he acknowledges that their numbers have increased threefold over the past ten years and then claims that they are a valuable tool in the fight against crime.

Well I beg to differ Jeff, I have a near to useless CCTV looking camera overlooking the place where I park my car, kindly left by an old neighbour, it keeps some people mollified and happy, but not me. It seems to me that research and facts prove that CCTV cameras are not that useful as a tool against crime at all, certainly not in London, the crime capital of the UK, where just this year it has been proved that less than three percent of crimes are successfully solved using CCTV imagery and that in reality only about one in a thousand crimes are solved by this means. The Evening Standard had quite an enlightening article at the time. available here.

According to Detective Chief Inspector Mick Neville, who heads the Metropolitan Police’s Met’s Visual Images, Identifications and Detections Office (Viido), billions of pounds have been spent with almost no results to show. Only three percent of crimes have been solved using CCTV footage, and offenders aren’t afraid of being caught on video. Det. Chief Inspector Neville, speaking to The Guardian, described the system as an “utter fiasco” and that “no thought” had gone into implementation. Other issues, beyond the lack of success standing up in court, include the tedium of police officers spending hours trawling through footage, and often a failure to contact private CCTV operators (such as cameras located on private buildings etc) to request footage.

Yet Labour politicians still believe that more snooping, more prying into family life, more early intervention, more databases, more innocent children having DNA sampled, more ID Cards, and more biometrics, are the answer to crime problem that probably isn’t quite as large as the average Daily Mail reader imagines.

It seems that Cllr. Milburn is NOT telling us that Conservatives would introduce a little more libertarian spirit to the statute book by ordering the removal of thousands of CCTV cameras and the destruction of ridiculously expensive databases that will want to record every minutiae of life from the moment of free captive birth, but more that they intend to make these things work better, improve them, or modernise them! Jeff says a Conservative government would ensure CCTV is fit for purpose, but what exactly is the purpose? Surely the purpose of CCTV is to watch, monitor, and record? Surely it would be better (and cheaper) if you or I did that and reported our findings to the police.

What the Conservative Party and others need to understand is that Neighbourhood policing is what needs to work better, we need to reverse the lack of trust between the citizen and the police, we need to go back to the days of knowing that the policeman/woman is your friend, and that the guy around the corner who mugs your granny is most certainly not! Only by rebuilding this trust will we see more and more people willing to freely give statements, and freely finger their neighbours as community spirit returns to neighbourhoods. Front line police time needs to be freed up, bureaucratic form filling needs to be radically cut away from the job, people need to see police on the streets, not behind desks. Once we become more accustomed to having a two way dialogue with our local police, we will see that the criminals will start to fear their own neighbours (instead of the other way round), because at present too many people have this naive idea that they needn’t bother getting involved – after all, they’ll have it on camera, won’t they?

And another thing, once we feel that the state isn’t prying and snooping into our lives all of the time in an effort to socially engineer our behaviour, then we will feel that much more comfortable about cooperating with the agencies of the state. Freedom and liberty can work wonders when we allowed to help look after our own property and our neighbourhoods.

As far as I am aware, nothing works better in a court than a witness, a human witness, standing up and saying “yes, it was him/her”

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Written by curly

December 29, 2009 at 11:07 pm

6 Responses

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  1. Like all technical systems you only get what you pay for; a CCTV camera from B&Q etc. will certainly not give the quality necessary but a better quality product (which costs more!)will, with proper monitoring and management, provide a highly useful service.

    cherry bear

    December 31, 2009 at 1:13 pm

  2. Hang on a minute, over £200m spent in London alone on over 10,500 cameras, yet more than 80% of crime remains unsolved. The borough with the highest clear up rate (Brent – 26%) has the smallest amount of council operated cameras (164).

    I think I’d rather spend my money on extra neighbourhood police!


    December 31, 2009 at 7:04 pm

  3. Looks like Jeff Milburn is calling for more public spending and more government red tape.


    January 1, 2010 at 12:22 pm

  4. “As far as I am aware, nothing works better in a court than a witness, a human witness, standing up and saying “yes, it was him/her” ”

    You’d be surprised how unreliable eye witnesses can be, especially when you consider they are very often making an identification months after the event in question.

    Just ask Peter Hain. He’s been there- a bank teller as well as a group of youths all told the court he was a bank robber- and all of them were wrong.


    January 6, 2010 at 10:12 pm

    • I suppose we should all be delighted then, when one day, DNA samples are taken from every child at birth and we can all be automatically marked down as “suspects”! My estimation (based upon the fact that Peter Hain has never been found guilty of robbing a bank) is that fair justice was met in that case, our current judge and jury system works well when good decent people have the incentives to participate fully and the public/police partnership is in full bloom.


      January 6, 2010 at 10:41 pm

  5. Eighty per cent of CCTV footage can’t be used to prosecute criminals? That does not mean there is anything wrong with the footage…THe problem is the legal system. They need to change the laws so they can convict!

    Erik Johnson

    January 19, 2010 at 1:09 am

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