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Government Privacy

One Crime Solved Per 1,000 London CCTV Cameras 404

SpuriousLogic writes "Only one crime was solved for each 1,000 CCTV cameras in London last year, a report into the city's surveillance network has claimed. The internal police report found the million-plus cameras in London rarely help catch criminals. In one month CCTV helped capture just eight out of 269 suspected robbers. David Davis MP, the former shadow home secretary, said: 'It should provoke a long overdue rethink on where the crime prevention budget is being spent.' He added: 'CCTV leads to massive expense and minimum effectiveness. It creates a huge intrusion on privacy, yet provides little or no improvement in security. The Metropolitan Police has been extraordinarily slow to act to deal with the ineffectiveness of CCTV.'"
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One Crime Solved Per 1,000 London CCTV Cameras

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  • Re:Sure, but... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 24, 2009 @07:12PM (#29179541)

    I often commit crimes in front of cameras in places I'm never going to return to again.

  • by syousef ( 465911 ) on Monday August 24, 2009 @07:13PM (#29179557) Journal

    It's not about solving crimes and those of us that aren't complete sheep know it. It's about getting people use to an intrusive government presence and getting them to accept it with minimum complaint. For that it's been very effective.

  • by jcr ( 53032 ) <> on Monday August 24, 2009 @07:13PM (#29179561) Journal

    It's all about intimidating law-abiding citizens.


  • Re:Sure, but... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 24, 2009 @07:14PM (#29179569)

    Sure, but how many crimes did it prevent?

    A lot less now that criminals know they have a 1 in 1000 chance of getting caught.

  • Re:Sure, but... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ickleberry ( 864871 ) <> on Monday August 24, 2009 @07:24PM (#29179659) Homepage
    Take them down for a few months to find out?
  • Social Tranquilizers (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DynaSoar ( 714234 ) on Monday August 24, 2009 @07:30PM (#29179731) Journal

    CCTV, like the US color coded terror alert level, the beefed up airport screening people and processes, and the very Dept. of Homeland Security itself are not primarily intended to be first-line effective deterrents. They are intended to be that, and do the job somewhat, but they are foremost intended to be seen by the populace as being devised and put into place by their government. The government has a mind set that the people need to be tranquilized -- that they are afraid and need to be comforted. I sat in on some of the committee meetings held at and for NIH, and the things suggested that were carried through were high visibility projects. Those things not visible were far less likely to be taken seriously, even though many would have been more effective (and were in other places at other times). There's also the inevitable politician's choice to be seen doing something positive, but still if it weren't visible, nobody thought it would carry much weight. I had a friend at Commerce and she said exactly the same sort of things went on in their meetings.

  • Re:Sure, but... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Alien Being ( 18488 ) on Monday August 24, 2009 @07:33PM (#29179755)

    I think a mod point would have been wasted here as your comment already seems buried.

    It's exactly what I was going to say. I know of plenty of local businesses that get ripped off and surveillance pics are usually worthless.

    Fake cams are almost as good as real ones.

  • Re:Sure, but... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ParticleGirl ( 197721 ) <SlashdotParticleGirl&gmail,com> on Monday August 24, 2009 @07:52PM (#29179943) Journal

    Yeah CCTV catches every nose pick, every ass scratch, every groin adjustment and potentially offers these images to the world

    I personally think that this is a great idea-- make it all public!


    I think Warren Ellis had a pretty awesome vision in Transmetropolitan [] when whatever happens in public spaces becomes accessible to anyone, at any time-- truly publicly available, as many of us want "public" data to be.


    I used to work for a government data archive in the burgeoning days of the internet, and they didn't want to make data downloadable-- even though it had to be legally available to the public!-- because they didn't it want to be THAT public. People who didn't understand it, or people who had malicious intentions would have access to it. But you know what? Public is public is public, and technology keeps on making it easier for more and more people to see those public things. CC:TV footage should stream online, and soon there'll be a brigade of human eyes looking out for criminals (and for ways to exploit other people, and to police the police) through those electronic eyes. When they start putting CCTV in your living room [], I say THEN you worry.

  • wrong conclusion (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bugi ( 8479 ) on Monday August 24, 2009 @07:58PM (#29180003)

    I don't know how it operates over there, but here in the US this is what's called a request for more money.

  • Re:Sure, but... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Grieviant ( 1598761 ) * on Monday August 24, 2009 @08:25PM (#29180253)

    According to an ABC article (linked by the Wiki entry on CCTV) from a couple years ago, there is some evidence to suggest CCTV is worse at prevention than it is at solving crimes. []

    Quoting from page 2:
    "According to a British Home Office review of dozens of studies analyzing the cameras' value at reducing crime, half showed a negative or negligible effect and the other half showed a negligible decrease of 4 percent at most. Researchers found that crime in Glasgow, Scotland, actually increased by 9 percent after cameras were installed there.

    In the United States, one of the most prominent examples was Tampa's use of facial recognition technology in 2001. But the city's police department dropped the technology two years later when it failed to result in a single arrest. The use of video surveillance was considered by the Oakland, Calif., police chief, but he ultimately found that "there is no conclusive way to establish that the presence of video surveillance resulted in the prevention or reduction of crime." "

  • Re:ONE THOUSAND?! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by xigxag ( 167441 ) on Monday August 24, 2009 @08:28PM (#29180271)

    We can all make up scenarios where something might theoretically be a deterrent, but it's just a fantasy until stats bear out there's a real positive impact. And then that impact has to be weighed against the cost. Are 1,000 CCTVs cheaper than one police officer? Let's have YOUR grandma walk down the street, get mugged, break her hip and be traumatized because one less cop got hired in place of a bunch of cameras that can't do anything but watch.

  • Re:Sure, but... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by interkin3tic ( 1469267 ) on Monday August 24, 2009 @08:40PM (#29180389)

    Criminals know how to defeat simple measures, it's what they do. So I would say that probably 1-2% of criminals would be completely deterred from robbing somebody, stealing a car, or whatever, but the rest would just scout out the cameras and not look at them and wear a hoodie to prevent good angle/shot of the face, or simply wear other methods of obscuring their faces.

    I'd need to see actual data. Seems equally likely to me that only 1-2% of car thieves are smart enough to do avoid these measures. If you're running low on meth and see an ipod in a car at night, you may be thinking little more than smashed window = ipod = more meth, "wear a hoodie so you don't get photographed and caught" might be pretty advanced for you. After all, everyone knows the halfway intelligent criminals don't steal cars, they go to law school.

  • by Mashiki ( 184564 ) <> on Monday August 24, 2009 @08:52PM (#29180489) Homepage

    Bill the copper is meant to be an approachable person of the community that everyone knows. You may or may not realize this, but in some countries the Police are still looked at as very strong role models. As someone going into law enforcement(Canadian), I feel kinda ashamed that the UK has gone this far(Yes police reflect on the actions of other police a lot. Don't think they don't), and the police aren't looked as someone you can feel safe around but as someone to fear.

    Regardless of this, going from organic to electronic is huge. Not only is there no "person", when you need a person that nearest dispatch may be 10-45mins away. Tell that to some women that's just been raped. GOOD JOB! I hate CCTV and everything it stands for, I realize the original intention and it was sound. It's currently bad, it will remain bad. Want to ensure crimes get solved, ensure public trust, and ensure that you don't seem like you're out of touch with people?

    Hire good cops that have empathy, understand the public, and understand they're not there for the quick fix to a problem. But that a problem, may require a long haul, and that as a cop. Your job is to fix them.

  • by Brain-Fu ( 1274756 ) on Monday August 24, 2009 @09:37PM (#29180887) Homepage Journal

    I have read more than a few stories about police taking action against people who are filming them, and complaints about how the police don't want to be recorded so they can get away with abusing the public, etc. all these cameras keep the police in line, too?

    And if so, does that, in any way, change their desirability in the minds of the privacy advocates?

    Are kinder police be worth the price of electronic eyes on every public street corner?

  • Re:Sure, but... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Herby Sagues ( 925683 ) on Monday August 24, 2009 @10:16PM (#29181205)
    The privacy issues are actually trivial to solve: make the cameras automatically encrypt data before shipping them in protected form to an archive. No one sees the direct feed, no one is able to access that data. In order to access data, a judge has to issue an order (if the system is well designed, that should be possible to do in a few hours at most), and the order allows a group of isolated people with specific instruction as to what to look for, to view in a closed room the unencrypted feed. Then, once those have made the observations and passed them to law enforcement, the unencrypted feed is discarded. Whenever the feed has to be used in court, it can be unencrypted permanently with a proper judicial order, for the time span that is relevant. The chances that you are doing something you would like not to be disclosed in the same camera and at the same time a crime is being comitted is low enough to make it a non issue compared to the benefits. The problem is that this is not being done. Recordings are being done unencrypted, ans monitored in real time by people that could be re recording for whatever purposes they have. That's unacceptable especially compared to the limited benefits.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 24, 2009 @11:35PM (#29181897)

    Am I the only one who realizes that these massive CCTV surveillance grids have nothing to do with stopping crime?

    I live in Baltimore, trust me, cameras don't help. This city keeps getting more violent, dangerous, and crime-ridden every year. Any decrease in numbers you see is simply corrupt policy that selectively reports crimes, failing to do so entirely if they think they can get away with it.

  • by Macka ( 9388 ) on Monday August 24, 2009 @11:50PM (#29182017)

    Way to go SpuriousLogic. You take today's top prize for selectively snipping text from a news article to spin a point you want to push. This was actually an article about how ineffective the current use of CCTV image data has been, with an emotive tag line to snag the eyeballs. The article concludes by saying:

    "The Metropolitan Police has been extraordinarily slow to act to deal with the ineffectiveness of CCTV."
    Nationwide, the government has spent £500m on CCTV cameras.
    But Det Sup Michael Michael McNally, who commissioned the report, conceded more needed to be done to make the most of the investment.
    He said: "CCTV, we recognise, is a really important part of investigation and prevention of crime, so how we retrieve that from the individual CCTV pods is really quite important.
    "There are some concerns, and that's why we have a number of projects on-going at the moment."
    Among those projects is a pilot scheme by the Met to improve the way CCTV images are used.
    A spokesman for the Met said: "We estimate more than 70% of murder investigations have been solved with the help of CCTV retrievals and most serious crime investigations have a CCTV investigation strategy."
    Officers from 11 boroughs have formed a new unit which collects and labels footage centrally before distributing them across the force and media.
    It has led to more than 1,000 identifications out of 5,260 images processed so far.

    Quite different from the spin on this slashdot story huh. But then you knew that didn't you, and you knew the much of the Slashdot crowd would just lap it up.

  • not just alcohol (Score:3, Interesting)

    by hany ( 3601 ) on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @03:41AM (#29183211) Homepage

    And it's not just alcohol.

    Little example: You are walking the street. The street is nicely covered with cameras, everything is recorded by the police. Some guy comes to you and robs you of your wallet and phone. As expected, this crime is properly recorded.

    So, you go to police to file "what ever it is called" and expect police to find the perpetrator and give you back your wallet and phone. Should be easy, right?

    Well, in reality they will simply try to convince you they can't do anything about it because "there are lots of such small incidents and even IF they do look at the tapes, and even IF they do successfully identify the guy, and even IF they do find him quite quickly, you wont get your wallet and phone back - wallet would be long since empty and discarded somewhere and phone sold". And even getting the man to court would be quite ... expansive and the resulting conviction ... unsatisfactory.

    In IT terms, cameras do not scale properly and small criminals are flooding them so much that they are not effective.

    So yes, sometimes cameras can help with something big. But otherwise they are not helping and can be hugely abused (if not already).


  • by houghi ( 78078 ) on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @07:37AM (#29184435)

    1000 identifications? That does not mean they were guilty. And only 5.000+ processed? That means that they are highly ineffective.

    And estimate 70%? I estimate it was 134%. When estimating percentages when you have actual numbers, "estimate" means "pulled it out of my ass". And of that 'estimate' how many would have been caught without the camera's anyway?

    And of those 1000 identifications, how many where doing serious crime (so no traffic offenses). Why not put that amount of money in preventing crime? Now you let people comit a crime and catch them and put them in jail.

    The victim is still a victim and the rest of society will pay for the person being in prison. If a cop was standing there, no crime would have been committed, so no victim and no cost later for society. The "problem" is that you can't put a number on that.

    It is rather McNally who tries to spin it. He wants more to be done, which means either even more camera's or even more investment then what has already been poured into it, most likely much more more.

    I estimated that 100% money will get only a 70% better result.

  • Re:No ! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by gujo-odori ( 473191 ) on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @01:45PM (#29189543)

    I think a lot of people would reverse that, saying that the surveillance itself is wrong, but that if you see a crime committed, then arresting the perp is right.

    But that aside, the main point of TFA is that the surveillance just isn't effective. Most especially, that it isn't cost effective. Just as wars are won by troops on the ground, not air wars (no matter how much you bomb somebody, a bomber can't occupy territory), so crime isn't solved or prevented by huge numbers of CCTV cameras. Crime is prevented/solved by officers on the beat, doing good old-fashioned police work. Sure, they can and should use technology to assist with that work - laptop-equipped patrol cars, for example - but technology is not a substitute for police work. Trying to make it so is the mistaked of the CCTV system.

"An organization dries up if you don't challenge it with growth." -- Mark Shepherd, former President and CEO of Texas Instruments