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South Shields premier political blog

Posts Tagged ‘CCTV

Welcome to the Stasi State

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Internet Eyes to create nation of snoopers and bounty hunters

This makes me want to vomit, a cynical manipulation of the millions of CCTV cameras in Britain’s Surveillance State and a company clearly intent upon making more money by getting camera owners to buy into their scheme. The premise is that you sign up and register for free and are assigned a number of CCTV cameras to watch, you won’t know where the cameras are located, and if you spot a real life crime being committed you a stand a chance of winning hard cash!

Some flaws in the whole thing (as you’d expect): those who monitor the camera will report directly to the camera owners rather than directly to the police (who don’t offer prize money), and by creating a points based league table users will start to become tied to their PCs or laptops and will no longer be keeping an eye on their own neighbourhoods. The system will become another tool which will drive a wedge between the police and the public, breaking the link of trust that needs to exist between the two and undermioning community policing, this time by alienating “users” from the rest of society and turning them into zombie bounty hunters interested only in the possibility of winning £1000 per month.

The whole thing is being promoted like some sort of game, we just don’t know how many companies have bought into the nightmare surveillance scheme that turns citizens into agents of the stasi!

As I read in The Spectator this is a depressing commentary on the state of modern Britain and changing the culture that leads to this sort of ghastliness is every bit as important as fixing the country’s finances. Perhaps more so, in fact.

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Written by curly

October 6, 2009 at 8:47 pm

Counting the cameras

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Massive task looking for accuracy

So police are now wanting to count the CCTV cameras in an effort to prove or disprove that we have become a surveillance society. Ostensibly they want to know which ones are capable of providing images which are of good enough quality to present as evidence in court.

I hope they include all local authority cameras, all camera in shops, offices, railway stations, bus stations, taxi offices, pubs, clubs, leisure centres, buses, taxis, and those that are attached to private dwellings too, my own little exercise in South Shields was an astonishing eye opener I counted 90 cameras in a 1200 yard stretch! As my last post points out, and as I have asserted for a long time, these cameras do not prevent crime from taking place and I have long held the view that they make us complacent about reporting crime to the police with the expectation that “it will have been seen on the cameras”. Trouble is, some of the cameras do not provide good enough images to be useful and many of them do not in fact make us feel safer – why? Simply because there is too much anecdotal evidence that street yobs will commit a crime or assault despite knowing that cameras are watching them.

Graeme Gerrard, Deputy Chief Constable of Cheshire and the Association of Chief Police Officers spokesman on CCTV, said:

Installing cameras helped to reduce the fear of crime, but research suggested mixed results for actually cutting crime. CCTV reduced crime in car parks and shops but was less successful in curbing disorder and anti-social behaviour in public spaces. Just because there is surveillance does not mean someone who is fuelled up with alcohol will not get involved in disorder.

I’d like to know, at the end of this survey, just how many of these cameras and their operators are not complying with the Data Protection Act in areas such as handling, storage and processing of the images obtained.

For the law abiding the proliferation of CCTV in the UK has led to a feeling of overbearing state snooping stifling our liberty, freedom, and personal privacy, and creating a pervading sense of “Big Brother” intrusiveness into our daily life.


Image of threatening CCTV camera found at Samizdata

CCTV camera

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Written by curly

March 7, 2009 at 10:12 am

Posted in Big Brother, Crime, Freedom, liberty, News, South Shields

Tagged with

CCTV isn’t working!

with one comment

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 , ,

Sex pictures shock!

with 150 comments

Fairground, South ShieldsCurly taken for a ride

Did I mention something about being taken for ride in my last post?

Well I was, but I never imagined that a trip to the Ocean Beach Pleasure Park in South Shields would result in a ride in the back of a police car, being questioned about taking pictures of a sexual nature (and we are not talking of someone of Britney Spears age either!)

Have I ever mentioned CCTV cameras in the past?

Yes on numerous occasions.

Have I ever stated that we are becoming a nation of suspects in the past?

Yes, on numerous occasions.

Have I ever voiced the fear that we may quietly lurch towards a police state in the past?

Yes, on numerous occasions.

So let me start at the beginning – I parked my car at the Littlehaven Hotel, South Shields, this afternoon and walked across the beach with two intentions in mind (a) recording the extent of the damage to the sea wall on Harbour Drive for a post in this blog tomorrow, and (b) taking some pictures in the fairground for use in South Shields Daily Photo, as an illustration of the sort of things that South Shields folks get up to on an Easter Bank Holiday weekend. Please bear in mind that presenting a site such as this requires a lot of photographs with regular fresh input, nothing is worse than repetition.

I was well wrapped up, as usual, wearing my normal photographic kit which has many large deep pockets suited for carrying lens, spare batteries, flash gun etc. I also had my normal heavy bag with me just in case I decided to use any other filters or a third lens. I spent some time at both locations but at one stage had to take shelter in the waltzer as hailstones beat down, stinging the face and battering against the camera. Whilst under shelter I continued to shoot scenes (I found it fascinating that people still wanted to wander around the park and have fun, despite the atrocious weather.)

After an hour and a half I made my way back to the car satisfied that I have gained enough new material over the past couple of days to keep the site running for the next week or so. I drove through another hailstorm towards the South Marine Park and then along Ocean Road to check the size of the queue at Colmans, from there I proceeded towards Anderson Street and see a police car coming towards me from the direction of the Town Hall, blue lights flashing, siren wailing, in an obvious hurry to get somewhere. It did a U turn and came up behind me, by now I had slowed to a stop along with a couple of other cars, as we all assumed the police car wanted to get past. It appeared that he didn’t, perhaps he wanted to turn left just in front of the Voyager, so we all moved off again to give him room. But no, he’s still behind me, now flashing his headlights too, good God, he wants me!

My mind runs around thinking of things like tax disc, lights, body damage, and satisfied myself that all was in order, so I turned into Beach Road, parked up and approached the police officer. He wants me to go back to my car switch everything off, lock it and get into the back of the police car!

Crikey, what the hell do they think I’ve been up to? If, like me, you have never been in this situation in your life before perhaps you can imagine the slightly panicked state of mind.

“You wish to speak to me?”

“Yes sir, if you don’t mind stepping into the rear of my car”

“Is there something wrong with my car or my driving?”

“No, no sir, nothing like that at all, we are responding to an emergency call from someone in The Sundial who has reported you as taking pictures of children in the play park”

“Play park? I haven’t been near any play park! I’ve been on the beach and in the fairground, and I’ve never been anywhere near The Sundial either, surely you must have the wrong person?”

“Sorry sir, but we tracked you on the CCTV cameras, got your registration number and that’s why I need to talk to you, you are exactly as described”

After confirming name and address, date of birth, electoral roll, and telephone number, I offered to get my camera and show the officer all of the pictures that I’d taken this afternoon (click the thumbnail above, for an example).

“Dodgem cars, fairground rides, beach, is that all sir?

“Yes, help yourself, view them all”

Whilst he was viewing, I gave him one of my cards confirming that I have an occasional monetary interest in taking photographs, and whilst he was getting interested, news came through on his radio that I was a Neighbourhood Watch Co-ordinator and had reported a number of crimes and leads in my area (not that it’s the most crime ridden street in South Shields) and it became clear that an innocent individual had been lifted off the street at the behest of some illiberal busy body who thinks the man with a camera is obviously a dangerous paedophile.

“I’m sorry sir, this is obviously a terrible misunderstanding, but I suppose you realise that we get more and more of these calls every week these days. I was looking at a bloke’s camera recently, and I can tell you the pictures weren’t the sort that you have taken”

“What I cannot understand is, you said someone in The Sundial rang 999 and reported me, I haven’t been anywhere near The Sundial, I haven’t been anywhere near the park, you said I was tracked by the CCTV cameras, so you should have known that I’d been in the fairground!”

“So sorry sir, we have to follow these calls, and may I thank you for being so co-operative. Have a good day sir”

Have good day sir, hmph! Well to be fair he was extremely courteous and easy to deal with, but it has left a bad taste in the mouth I can tell you. Any idea how many people I saw taking pictures in the fairground with their nice shiny digital cameras today? Any idea how many Motorola V8 type camera phones I’ve seen pointed at smiling faces in the fairground today?

Yes – many!

Thing is, if you are wearing a shell suit, baseball cap, and rockies, you don’t look the least suspicious in this day and age, but if you have a digital SLR with a large zoom lens you really have it for a nasty purpose in mind! Yes, we are becoming a nation of suspects, we are also becoming a nation of ninnies and nincompoops wrapped in the cotton wool of the nanny state, too bothered with our own little suspicions and personal foibles to be able to talk to the bloke with the camera, why worry they’ll see him on the CCTV cameras surely?

I write now, with the person who dialled 999 in mind. (If he/she ever gets round to reading this.)
Do you know, if you had came up to me and asked “what the hell I was doing?” You might have found out that, on the whole I’m a pretty straight kinda guy (as some former Prime Minister professed) , you might have discovered that I am actually personable (when I’m not ranting), you might have found out about some interesting websites that portray South Shields to the world, you might have found out that I’m a family guy too with a wife and two lovely children, you might have had a rewarding experience.

You know, it’s what we used to call “being neighbourly.”

Instead you have demonstrated a typical and ignorant knee jerk reaction, taken not a blind bit of notice of all the other cameras being used around you, without realising that under British law there is virtually no such thing as privacy in a public place, and wasted a considerable amount of police time and mine into the bargain. Have a nice day!

Right that’s got that off of my chest!

If you would like to see more of the pictures that I took this afternoon check back with this blog tomorrow, or South Shields Daily Photo any time after midnight.

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Written by curly

March 24, 2008 at 7:43 pm