CCTV cameras: If they do not stop crime or catch criminals, what are they for?

Telegraph
24.08.2009

Telegraph View: There is plenty of evidence that people are not safer because of the presence of CCTV.

For foreign visitors to Britain, and especially London, abiding memories of the trip have usually centred on historic architecture, galleries and parks. Now, tourists also take home with them the memory of a forest of CCTV cameras that watched their every move. Britain has far and away the largest number of surveillance cameras in the world. It is not known for certain how many there are, although one estimate puts the total at 4.2 million, or one for every 14 people, with one million in the capital alone. Nobody can deny that this involves snooping on people in a way that would once have been unacceptable — and which would still be intolerable in countries with recent memories of totalitarian regimes. But it is justified by its advocates on crime-fighting grounds, and most people instinctively feel more secure if their neighbourhood is watched over by CCTV.

Yet there is plenty of evidence that people are not safer because of the presence of CCTV: studies have argued convincingly that money is better invested in improved street lighting and more uniformed police patrols. If the efficacy of cameras as a crime prevention tool is at least questionable, they must, surely, be useful in helping to apprehend crooks? It turns out that they do not fulfil even that basic function. Det Chief Inspector Mike Neville of Scotland Yard says that in London just one crime is solved a year by every 1,000 CCTV cameras. CCTV played a role in capturing just eight out of 269 suspected robbers across London in one month, many of whom might have thought twice about committing a crime had there been a policeman about. In recent years, the Government has spent £500 million on surveillance cameras. If they do not stop crime or catch criminals, what are they for? To make sure we buy the correct light bulbs, perhaps?

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Daily Mail
28.08.2009
By Daily Mail Reporter

Tenants fuming as flats turned into ‘Big Brother house’ with 112 CCTV cameras installed inside

Furious tenants say security cameras have turned their flats into a huge Big Brother house.

It comes after a housing trust installed up to 112 CCTV cameras in their eight three-storey blocks and pointing towards residents’ front doors.

People living there say the move is an invasion of their privacy and fear they will be spied on 24 hours a day.

Tenant Phillip Mays, 44, was one of the first to be affected after a camera was installed outside his flat.

He said: ‘They’ll be able to sit watching who comes and goes into each of our flats 24 hours a day.

‘If we were in prison we could expect security like that, but not in our own home.

‘It’s like Big Brother on TV, watching us all day. It’s a breach of our civil rights and privacy.’

Residents living in the flats in Torquay, Devon, first heard about the CCTV in July when the Riviera Housing Trust wrote to them.

The housing associated explained the cameras would be installed to monitor and manage anti-social behaviour and crime on the estate.

Most welcomed it, but now work has begun they have learned the extent of the cameras - up to 112 at a cost of more than £375,000. And they have also being told they will have to pay an extra £2 a week in rent to pay for it.

Mother Donna Brook, 32, was recently burgled and sees the need for cameras - but on the outside of the flats, rather than the inside.

She said: ‘They [the cameras] can see every person coming and going through everyone’s front door.

‘It is an invasion of our privacy.’  And another mother, Jenny Goldsworthy, 34, who has lived in Pendennis Road for 12 years, said: ‘I think it’s terrible. I can’t do anything any more. I feel like we have been invaded’.

Resident Kevin Gaskell, 52, said: ‘The people round here are trying to deal with problems in a civil way, without breaking any laws, and that doesn’t give Riviera Housing Trust the right to come and stuff cameras in here and charge us for the privilege’.

But not everyone is totally against the move. Steve Brinsley, 50, who has lived on the estate for 28 years, said: ‘I don’t like the way the government are recording everyone, but I am willing to accept a bit less freedom for a bit more safety and peace of mind.

The head of Riviera Trust’s neighbourhood services, Elizabeth Heatley, said:

‘We are unable to provide exact locations and numbers of CCTV cameras as we believe it would compromise the security of the residents.

‘We are keen to gather feedback from our residents once works have been completed to see how they are getting on with the new security features’.

‘We see this as a positive step for residents and it is designed to make them feel more safe and secure in their homes. If they have any concerns or queries we are only too happy to talk to them and discuss them further’.

Resident Philip Mays admitted there had been problems on the estate but that 90 per cent of them were sorted out among residents themselves.

‘These cameras will stop people socialising together. When we associate, we will be watched’.

Full article

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