There was anotherstory yesterday concerning the use of CCTV cameras that populate the UK landscape and their effectiveness in crime fighting, this time appearing in the London Daily Telegraph.
The Telegraph says that the Metropolitan Police admit that only one crime per year is solved for every 1,000 CCTV cameras installed in the UK. There are over 1 million such cameras in London alone, and over 4 million across the UK. The Telegraph notes that Britain, with 1% of the world's population has over 20% of the world's CCTV cameras in operation.
The crime stat information comes from a Metropolitan Police internal report obtained through a Freedom of Information request. The internal report also says that London residents, after being told by the police that they were likely to be seen on 300 cameras per day, were losing confidence in the police when the police, as they are often quick to do, say that there is no CCTV video footage of a crime.
In addition, the Met report says that increasing numbers of citizens are complaining that the police investigating a crime don't even bother to look at the CCTV videos that do exist, further eroding public confidence in the police.
In another Telegraph story today, it is estimated by UK CCTV experts that nearly half the cameras capture such poor quality video that they are worthless in court.
(There is a UK government study going on to try to find out exactly how many closed-circuit TV cameras that have been installed in the UK, work and can provide usable pictures.)
A leading British barrister also made the point in the article that the proliferation of CCTV cameras has done little to deter crime.
John Bromley-Davenport, a criminal QC in Manchester, told the Telegraph:
“Cameras can, occasionally, provide evidence, although the quality of film is frequently so poor as to be worthless. But they do nothing to deter criminals; the large number of crimes, committed in the full view of cameras, provide eloquent testimony to that.”
However, a UK Home Office official, in rebutting the criticism, said CCTV cameras are useful because they:
"help communities feel safer."
Hmmm, I guess the solution then is to double the number of installed CCTV cameras; they may not be effective crime fighters, but Londoners and other UK citizens no doubt will feel doubly secure knowing the cameras are there.
Robert N. Charette is a Contributing Editor to IEEE Spectrum and an acknowledged international authority on information technology and systems risk management. A self-described “risk ecologist,” he is interested in the intersections of business, political, technological, and societal risks. Charette is an award-winning author of multiple books and numerous articles on the subjects of risk management, project and program management, innovation, and entrepreneurship. A Life Senior Member of the IEEE, Charette was a recipient of the IEEE Computer Society’s Golden Core Award in 2008.