Britain's CCTV use is a fiasco: top cop
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Britain's CCTV use is a fiasco: top cop

May 6, 2008.

Billions of pounds spent by Britain on security cameras have failed to cut crime and it has been "an utter fiasco", a senior detective has been quoted as saying.

Britain has the most surveillance in the world, according to civil liberty groups and security experts, with an estimated 4.2 million closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras in place on buildings, shops, roads and train stations.

But the Guardian newspaper reported Detective Chief Inspector Mick Neville of London police as saying that only three per cent of the capital's street robberies were solved using CCTV footage and criminals were not afraid of being caught on camera.

"CCTV was originally seen as a preventative measure," said Neville, head of the Metropolitan police's division on visual images, identifications and detections.

"Billions of pounds has been spent on kit, but no thought has gone into how the police are going to use the images and how they will be used in court," he told the Security Document World Conference in London, according to the Guardian.

"It's been an utter fiasco."

Neville's comments echo a government report last October which said most CCTV footage was not of good enough quality to help police identify offenders and many cameras were focused on enforcing bus lanes as well as stopping crime.

It said anecdotal evidence suggested that over 80 per cent of CCTV images supplied to the police were not up to scratch.

Neville is now leading an initiative to increase conviction rates from CCTV by setting up a database of images to track down offenders and to put pictures of suspects in crimes such as muggings and rape on the internet, the Guardian said.

"This has got to be balanced against any Big Brother concerns, with safeguards," he said.

Work is underway on whether software can be developed to perform automated searches for suspects on footage, while Neville said officers needed more training on using CCTV with many put off because "it's hard work".