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Source & Copyright: www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1095609/Big-brother-NOT-watching-Cash-strapped-towns-leave-CCTV-cameras-unmonitored.html
Big brother is
NOT watching you:
towns leave CCTV cameras unmonitored
Last updated at 2:38 PM on 16th December 2008
was the most watched nation in the world, with more than 4
million CCTV cameras monitoring our every move.
But now in these difficult economic times, it seems that Big
Brother isn't actually watching, in fact no one is.
As cash-strapped police forces and councils around the UK are
forced to tighten their belts in the recession, CCTV cameras
around town centres are being left unmanned as they can't afford
to pay anyone to watch out for crime as it happens
Instead, entire networks of surveillance cameras are being
effectively put on auto-pilot, with police reviewing tapes only
after a reported incident.
While in some areas, members of the public and police community
support officers are being drafted in fill the breach.
Now critics have called for a review of the future of CCTV
surveillance which has cost taxpayers £500 million over the last
decade, saying there is little point in having the cameras if no
one is watching.
Worcester City Council is the latest to announce plans to cut
CCTV operatives monitoring the town's 63 cameras in a bid to
plug a £4.3million hole in its budget.
Council leaders claim that paying staff to carry out
surveillance which costs the council £140,000 a year, is a
burden it can no longer afford.
Simon Geraghty, leader of Worcester City Council, said: 'There
has been an agreement between the city council and West Mercia
Police that we fund the operatives and we have to give them at
least 12 months notice.
'They (West Mercia Police) have said they do not want to fund
this but it is a burden we can no longer support.'
But the move has angered police who say that it will be more
difficult to detect and convict criminals without the support of
the CCTV operators.
Chief Supt Reynolds, south Worcestershire's head of policing,
said: 'It's like having an automatic car without a driver.
'The dynamic element of the system is crucial. If a club reports
trouble, the camera operators can point their camera at the
'This could be a very important part of the evidence-gathering
'You could have the cameras on a roaming setting, but it becomes
haphazard on what it records.
'If an incident occurs and the camera happens not to be trained
on that place at that time, it becomes useless in terms of that
Last month it emerged that Cotswold District Council had failed
to allocate a new contract to monitor its CCTV system in
Police Community Support Officers have now been drafted in to
fill the breach on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
But at all other times the cameras have been on automatic, with
police reviewing tapes only after a reported incident.
While in Dorset, police resorted to advertising for unpaid
civilian volunteers to monitor CCTV footage after claiming that
it was not cost effective to pay trained professionals.
In June Dorset Police appealed for members of the public to
watch live images from street security cameras in Wimborne,
Blandford, Shaftesbury and Gillingham to help spot crimes and
Surveillance expert, Professor Nigel Gilbert, who last year
produced a report for the Royal Academy of Engineers calling for
a halt to CCTV cameras until their need was proven, said today
that the situation had become farcical.
He said: 'The evidence suggests surveillance cameras are
completely useless as a way of reducing crime, their only use is
as a way of collecting evidence a crime has been committed- it
doesn't stop it happening in the first place.
'The public has been misled into believing that it's a silver
bullet for crime reduction and actually it is not.
'I suspect that councils are realising this and therefore it is
not a very high priority to look out for crime on CCTV systems.
'It is not an efficient or cost-effective use of resources.
'With no one to watch, I would question the value of having them
turned on at all.'
Dr David Murakami-Wood, from The Surveillance Studies Network
has also questioned the future of CCTV, saying: 'Councils are
now having cameras on with no one watching or they are having to
cut back staffing levels in the recession.
'CCTV is expensive - local councils did not really think about
these costs when they joined the rush to install cameras funded
by central government.
'Now many are realising that they have been saddled with a
massive extra cost that in hard times like these can eat into
their limited budgets for providing other forms of public
'Questions should now be asked about the future of CCTV and why
we have so many cameras if no one is watching them.
'If the only justification is that people are watching if you
are in trouble and that is not happening, then there seems
little point in having them on at all.'