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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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  • Sure, but... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rm999 ( 775449 ) on Monday August 24, 2009 @07:10PM (#29179523)

    Sure, but how many crimes did it prevent? I always considered cameras more of a prevention, i.e. only idiots commit crimes in front of cameras.

    Obviously, another question is how many crimes simply moved to areas without cameras.

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

      by DeadPixels ( 1391907 ) on Monday August 24, 2009 @07:13PM (#29179551)
      Great point. While I personally don't think that they're much of a deterrent, especially as people grow used to them, it's definitely a valid angle to examine before taking action.

      Don't get me wrong - I feel that the CCTVs are a huge breach of privacy and I'd have to have them where I live - but I do think it's unfair just to look at a single statistic and take action based on that.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by DeadPixels ( 1391907 )
        and I'd have to have them where I live

        Sorry, I'd *hate* to have them where I live. The paranoia is getting to me.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          To me that's like saying, "I'd hate to have an officer standing on the corner and policing my neighborhood." The purpose of having eyes on patrol is to stop the criminals, or at least apprehend them later so they don't harm any future victims. It doesn't matter if those eyes are organic or electronic. The law gets enforced in both cases, and our human rights protected from those who want to cause us harm.

          The only place where you can really expect privacy is inside your home. That's always been true.

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

            by DeadPixels ( 1391907 ) on Monday August 24, 2009 @07:24PM (#29179663)
            Yes and no. I see a difference between an officer of the law - who should be able to be held accountable for his or her actions - and a recording device, which allows any number of people to monitor the behaviors of countless numbers of pedestrians. To illustrate my meaning, try thinking of an example where an officer observing something would likely not cause as big of an uproar as leaked video footage.
            • Re:Sure, but... (Score:5, Insightful)

              by masmullin ( 1479239 ) <> on Monday August 24, 2009 @07:30PM (#29179719)
              Yeah CCTV catches every nose pick, every ass scratch, every groin adjustment and potentially offers these images to the world
              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                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'

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

                  by Kokuyo ( 549451 ) on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @03:38AM (#29183199) Journal

                  I realize I'm a bit late but I think it needs to be said:

                  In a world where you don't get hunted down if you so happen to fit the newest image of absolute evil, yes, total abolishment of privacy could indeed be a good thing.

                  Unfortunately, in our world we prosecute people based on skin colour, sexual orientation, political stance and so on and so forth. People don't have to be guilty of a crime to get shunned. As long as this situation remains, privacy is the last bastion of freedom we have.

              • Re:Sure, but... (Score:4, Insightful)

                by commodore64_love ( 1445365 ) on Monday August 24, 2009 @07:56PM (#29179973) Journal


                It doesn't seem to bother you when you do it in front of me, and I surreptitiously snap a photo with my cellphone. If you don't want these images leaking, stop picking your nose or grabbing your crotch in front of everybody.

                Or just be like Michael J, and don't care.

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

                  by houghi ( 78078 ) on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @07:48AM (#29184499)

                  That is the problem right there. You think that because somebody is in public, that person has no right to privacy. I think that I still have a right to privacy.

                  If I walk by a cop, he will see me pick my nose and the next day he will have forgotten about me. The worst that can happen is that he says 'I saw somebody pick his nose' and that will be the end of it. If I rob an old lady, the cop will see hit and arrest me if I were stupid enough to do it in front of him.

                  With a camera my nose picking will be for all to see for an indefinite time. Then when the camera sees me rob an old lady, they will need to try and find me and there will be a 1 in 1.000 chance that they do.

                  To me a police walking around is not "the enemy". In fact if they are friendly (and I knew a few of them) it is nice to talk to them and have a beer with them. To me he is not there to get me, he is there to prevent that somebody else gets me.

                  To me there is a huge difference between my privacy and your right to put everything you see online. The way you explain it, stalking should be legal.

                  Or in other words: the rights to privacy should be opt-in (I agree that you take and publish my picture) not opt-out. And if there are 10.000 people who you would need to ask, you might say? Well, that is YOUR problem, not mine and if you think that you can't fulfill those demands, then don't take the picture.

              • 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?

            • >>>Yes and no. I see a difference between an officer of the law - who should be able to be held accountable for his or her actions - and a recording device, which allows any number of people to monitor the behaviors of countless numbers of pedestrians

              By that logic radar to record speeding cars is not allowable. It's just a stupid gadget.

              >>an officer observing something would likely not cause as big of an uproar as leaked video footage.

              You mean like when a cop used his cellphone t

          • The trade-off (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Noren ( 605012 ) on Monday August 24, 2009 @07:30PM (#29179723)
            For the price and upkeep of 1,000 CCTV cameras I would expect that one could deploy at least one additional meat-based law inforcement unit complete with two eyes. This creature, that we'll call a 'police officer', might be expected to solve more than one crime per year.

            Absolutely I would hate to see the limited government dollars allocated for police protection squandered on inefficient ways such as CCTV.
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              I disagree. Most cops don't solve anything. They show-up after the fact and clean-up the bloody mess, because no single man can cover 1000 different locations, nor can he can work 24 hours a day, or locate a criminal he's never got to see. At least with video cameras you cover a wide area and can rewind the footage to identify the asshole.

              • Re:The trade-off (Score:5, Insightful)

                by MadnessASAP ( 1052274 ) <> on Monday August 24, 2009 @08:08PM (#29180085)

                On the other hand when a cop sees someone commit a crime he can arrest him on the spot, all a CCTV camera can do is watch, unless of course the person happens to be wearing something that obscures his face or a headband studded with IR LEDs. In which case your camera is useless. Furthermore you can put a hell of alot more then just 1 cop on the street for the price of a 1000 cameras.

              • Re:The trade-off (Score:5, Insightful)

                by hedwards ( 940851 ) on Monday August 24, 2009 @08:28PM (#29180273)
                I think you're either greatly over estimating the cost of a police officer or greatly underestimating the cost of installing, maintaining and monitoring videos. A thousand cameras is going to cost you a pretty substantial sum of money to keep in repair.

                On top of that, criminals no where the cameras are pointed, if you spend enough time around them you can spot which way they're pointed without looking too hard. On top of that a police office can be sent to other areas of the city as needed and get information which is completely inaccessible to a camera. And an officer is already there and in these parts ready to respond to anything that might be going on, not just crimes, but medical emergencies and such as well.
            • Re:The trade-off (Score:5, Informative)

              by pjt33 ( 739471 ) on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @03:43AM (#29183227)

              You're making a very common mistake, which is to assume that the CCTV cameras are owned by the government. The majority of CCTV cameras in London are installed privately in shops and offices.

          • by GTsquirrel42 ( 624871 ) <heirpixel AT gmail DOT com> on Monday August 24, 2009 @07:48PM (#29179881) Homepage
            One huge difference: cameras can't actually apprehend anybody. There are cases upon cases of crimes being commited directly under watch of a camera that are never solved. Whether it's because the perp is wearing a hat or they never return to the city or whatever, were there an actual officer there it could have been stopped then and there: the crime would be prevented AND the perp could be taking directly to gaol, no passing GO. A woman being assaulted and saying "oh, we got it on camera so we /might/ be able to catch the guy" isn't going to feel any better until he's actually caught. Telling her they can't catch him because he was wearing a hat or the camera was turned 5 degrees too far to the left is just pouring salt into the wound.
            • by indiechild ( 541156 ) on Monday August 24, 2009 @11:45PM (#29181987)

              Exactly right. I think the cameras in London are largely ineffective for actually preventing crime, and not always helpful when solving crimes after the fact either.

              My friend has been burgled twice and each time he caught some fantastically clear 640x480 frontal and side-on shots of the goblins in the act (he leaves the webcam running and uploading captures via FTP). He was even running Adeona and got the IP addresses of the perps who stole his laptops and gear, but the police never did solve the cases.

              Seems to me that the only thing you can do is set up an immediate notification service to alert you when webcam movement is detected, and then call the police or immediately run home with a baseball bat.

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

            by Lord Bitman ( 95493 ) on Monday August 24, 2009 @07:58PM (#29179995) Homepage

            The problem I have with surveillance in general is that I don't trust the decision of who is labeled a "criminal" and what is labeled a "crime" to be sane. Sure, I can walk down the street today, minding my own business, and I know it's not a crime, but can I tomorrow?

            I'd rather that anything involving "minding my own business" go unmonitored.

          • Re:Sure, but... (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Runaway1956 ( 1322357 ) on Monday August 24, 2009 @08:24PM (#29180237) Homepage Journal

            You won't object if City Hall mandates that all entrances and exits are monitored, 24/7 then? Why stop there? Great Britain is going to install cameras into some targeted homes, to see that children go to bed on time, do their homework, etc.

            Personally, I object to the concept of a police state.....

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

            by twostix ( 1277166 ) on Monday August 24, 2009 @08:25PM (#29180243)

            It's nothing like the twisted distortion of reality that you have attempted to portray here.

            If the police wish to follow my every movement then they need a court order - it's called surveillance and yes when in public if someone is following me around writing down everything I do and say that is not protecting my "human rights" that's violating them in a huge way. It's called harrasment and stalking if a police officer does it without the legal authority handed down by a judge on a case by case basis to do so.

            Your pathetic attitude toward mass state surveillance is quite depressing by the way, and no a camera can't protect your "human rights"

            "CCTV captures chilling moment drug-fuelled thugs beat OAP to death"

            "Hells Angels Member Beaten To Death in Sydney Airport"

            "Dad of 6 is beaten to death by gang"

            All happenened in front of or right next to CCTV cameras.

            Time to grow up ey?

          • Re:Sure, but... (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Maxo-Texas ( 864189 ) on Monday August 24, 2009 @09:03PM (#29180571)

            To me, it's like saying, "I'd hate to have a policemen who follows me around all day, personally policing everything I do except for inside my house (for now)."

            The laws were written with an understanding that there wouldn't be 100% enforcement. The police would catch the worst cases, and let people off sometime.

            If every law were enforced fully, you would be surprised how oppressive it could be. You probably break the law a dozen time a day without realizing it.

      • by WindowlessView ( 703773 ) on Monday August 24, 2009 @07:34PM (#29179771)

        While I personally don't think that they're much of a deterrent,

        Sometimes they are just an amusement.

        My local Dunkin Donuts is about 60 feet by 30 feet and has, count 'em, 13 of those dark plastic ceiling bubbles. I think they should hold a contest and give out free donuts to anyone who can guess exactly how many of them actually contain a camera.

        Oh, and the place has been robbed twice in the last year.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      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.

    • Not to mention the crimes they do solve are usually the ones we can live with, IE catching some kid shoplifting rather than catching CCTV camera manufacturers bribing lawmakers to erode privacy.

    • Sure, but how many crimes did it prevent? I always considered cameras more of a prevention, i.e. only idiots commit crimes in front of cameras.

      That would perhaps make cameras somewhat useful for prevention, if criminals were usually acting on a rationa cost-benefit analysis considering the likelihood of being caught vs. the probable profit or enjoyment resulting from their actions. And even that, only if cameras were actually effective at making it easier criminals, which gets back to the report which is di

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

      by Anonymous Cowar ( 1608865 ) on Monday August 24, 2009 @07:20PM (#29179633)
      Locks only keep honest people out of your house. A hoodie + hat or other facial obfuscation = entire purpose of the camera has been defeated. 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.
      • 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: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Sique ( 173459 )

          I know of an anecdote where the surveillance camera actually helped solving a crime, where a business got robbed. But in this case it wasn't the camera alone, it was the fact that there was a watchman actively watching the camera feed.
          The neighbouring hardware store was robbed on a Sunday morning, and our datacenter watchman was pointing the surveillance camera to the scene and informing the police. He even got the license plate of the van used by the robbers on camera. About 90 mins later the police had ca

      • 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.

      • Re:Sure, but... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by jhol13 ( 1087781 ) on Monday August 24, 2009 @09:05PM (#29180589)

        So maybe the cameras are positioned wrong or are not of high quality enough?

        I would like to see a study why the cameras did not help. Too high in the ceiling so baseball cap obscures too much? Analog or low resolution so the picture is a mess? Couldn't catch license plate of run-away car?

        I have no clue what such a study would reveal.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Score Whore ( 32328 )

      According to one of Schneier's blog posts the cameras don't reduce crime at all. They shift it to other locations. Such a shift is an entirely different question, but perhaps still a valid goal.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ickleberry ( 864871 )
      Take them down for a few months to find out?
    • by DirtyCanuck ( 1529753 ) on Monday August 24, 2009 @07:26PM (#29179683)

      "Sure, but how many crimes did it prevent?"

      If I was somebody who was aware of the failure of the cameras in terms of identification I would simply stop caring they exist.

      In EVERY situation there are cameras it is a excercise in futility.

      For Example:

      In highschool we would do various illegal activities in the back. They put up cameras. We got scared. After about a month we stopped caring and it was business as usual, but we got more sneaky and better at our activities. We even would stage large fights right in front of the cameras with absolutely no mediation.

      Moral of the story is that nothing beats an on duty cop/teacher in person patrolling. All these cameras have done for London is made them the base for 1984 jokes for the past few years.

    • Sure, but how many crimes did it prevent? I always considered cameras more of a prevention, i.e. only idiots commit crimes in front of cameras.

      But this shows that they're clearly not idiots, since cameras only help in 0.1% of crimes. So at the very best cameras are successful security theatre (until said criminals read this report). In the more likely case however they're no good at all in prevention as generally criminals figure out what protection does or doesn't work a hell of faster than government/police panels.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Rogerborg ( 306625 )

        There's another possibility: that criminals are idiots, commit their crimes in front of cameras, and still don't get caught. From reading UK police blogs, I conclude that this is the closest approximation to the truth. The difficulty of finding the camera evidence and getting it into court in a form that the court will accept prohibits their use for all but the most high profile crimes.

        The debate (such as it is) should be: is it worth having all those cameras to catch a few murderers? Anything else is

    • by mikael ( 484 )

      They were installed to prevent terrorists to prevent "spectaculars" and to deter robberies in the obscure corners of railway station overpasses.

      For the first event, the police would have enough resources to examine the footage from every camera.

      For the second event, it would only take a security guard in a control room to notice anyone standing around for a long period of time then call in the transport police.

    • by QuantumG ( 50515 ) *

      Alternatively, only idiots believe cameras are effective tools for catching criminals and therefore change their behaviour when in front of one.

    • How many people did they catch dogging?
    • There are three CCTV cameras visible from my bedroom window. There are many more idiots visible from there.

    • by moon3 ( 1530265 )
      Yep, the best are the fake plastic cams -- the dummy CCTV cameras, those rival the German shepherd dog and are even water proof.
    • Re:Sure, but... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by twostix ( 1277166 ) on Monday August 24, 2009 @08:15PM (#29180145)

      "Dad of 6 is beaten to death by gang"

      "The attack is believed to have been recorded by two nearby CCTV cameras. Police are currently studying the footage. " []

      "Student beaten to death yards from home"

      "Detectives, who will examine CCTV footage, want to speak to a cyclist who was seen in the area. "

      Do you think the sorts of crimes that CCTV cameras are supposed to "prevent" are committed by well mannered, forward thinking and highly analytical individuals?

      There's a big disconnect between people on these tech sites and reality of the mindset of much of the lower class.

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

      by buchner.johannes ( 1139593 ) on Monday August 24, 2009 @08:35PM (#29180331) Homepage Journal

      Some relevant links:
      "Is Public CCTV Effective?" []

      This is relevant because "This report offers key findings from the 20 top studies/articles in the field and offers practical recommendations on how to optimize the use of public CCTV systems."

      Key Findings Summary
              * The expectation that CCTV systems should be deployed to reduce crime rather than solve crime has created huge problems.
              * While the studies show serious doubt on CCTV's ability to reduce crime generally, a strong consensus exists in CCTV's ability to reduce premeditative/property crime
              * CCTV is consistently treated as a singular, stable technology, obscuring radical technological changes that have occurred in the last 10 years
              * Differences in per camera costs are largely ignored, preventing policy makers from finding ways to reduce costs
              * Routine comparison of police vs cameras is counterproductive

      Practical Recommendations Summary
              * Stop claiming that CCTV can generally reduce crime
              * Optimize future public CCTV projects around crime solving rather than crime reduction
              * Optimize future public CCTV projects around material and premeditative crimes
              * Target technologies that support crime solving and material/premeditative crimes
              * Focus on minimizing cost per camera

      and "CCTV in Glasgow" []
      Main Findings
      - In the 12 months after installation of the cameras there were 3,156 fewer crimes and offences than the average for the 24 months preceding installation.
      - Once the crime and offence figures were adjusted to take account of the general downward trend in crimes and offences, reductions were noted in certain categories but there was no evidence to suggest that the cameras had reduced crime overall in the city centre.
      - The cameras appeared to have little effect on clear up rates for crimes and offences.
      - 33% of people questioned in the city centre were aware of the cameras 3 months after installation and 41% 15 months after installation.
      - Installation of the CCTV cameras did not reduce the proportion of those who said they would sometimes avoid a certain part of the city but there was a slight reduction in those who said they were anxious about becoming a victim of crime in the city centre.
      - 72% of all those interviewed believed CCTV cameras would prevent crime and disorder; 81% thought they would be effective in catching perpetrators; and 79% thought they would make people feel less likely that they would become victims of crime.
      - 67% of those interviewed 'did not mind' being observed by street cameras.

      Personally, I think the cost is the only way we can argue back our privacy. Say you are not willing to pay for costly, ineffective measures.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Jack9 ( 11421 )

      As I posted before, crimes are comitted and recorded throughout London. The newspapers had a number of stories of theft committed, recorded, reported and...nothing. Even knowing the time place and description of the person wasn't cause for the police to sift through the tapes. The cameras do nothing to deter most crime with such common knowledge.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by LifesABeach ( 234436 )
      I know that the use of Statistics in this case is foundation-less; but I know of one of the biggest crimes on the planet that went on in the U.K. and was not caught using their ubiquitous cameras. And that is when Bernie Maddoff [] went to his English Accountant and Embezzled Billions of Dollars. I'm beginning to wonder how many chairs were also purchased to solve crimes on cameras; it doesn't take Sherlock Homes to figure out what path Law Enforcement has chosen.
    • by Behrooz ( 302401 ) on Monday August 24, 2009 @09:32PM (#29180835)

      According to the British government, there has been a 48% decrease in recorded crime since the peak in 1995, which seems to argue that the proliferation of cameras and draconian gun control have been effective in protecting the safety of Britons.

      Unfortunately, recorded violent crimes have approximately doubled since the current record-keeping system was implemented in 1998, and there are compelling reasons to believe that most other categories of crime are now being massively underreported [], suggesting that crime problems in Britain are getting much worse despite a near-total ban on guns and the installation of millions of surveillance cameras.
      I'd say something isn't working...

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        draconian gun control

        Over here in the UK we don't care about whatever amendment allows you to carry guns. We don't want them and we don't need them.
        • by tmosley ( 996283 ) on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @12:36PM (#29188489)
          That's what the Armenians thought, until their government slaughtered them. That's what the Kulaks thought, until their government slaughtered them. That's what the Jews thought, until their government slaughtered them, that's what the Hutus though, until the Tutsis slaughtered them. This goes on and on.

          Every great genocide in the 19th century was preceded by a government decree either that citizens couldn't own guns, or that a targeted minority could not own guns.

          An armed society is a polite society. Your streets are now ruled by hooligans. You are afraid to go outside at night. You are more likely to be mugged. If you are mugged, you are more likely to be injured or killed in the attack. Enjoy your rule by thugs, both in government and on the streets.
  • 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.

    • I'm just as much a member of the tinfoil hat brigade as anyone else, but doesn't that seem a bit of a leap of logic?
      It seems to me that the simplest explanation for their presence (deterring crime and identifying criminals) is in this case the best one.
    • There's always been a government presence, even in the 1800s when it was "Bill the Copper" patrolling the streets. Upgrading that police presence from organic to electronic doesn't really change anything.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by FourthAge ( 1377519 )

        I disagree with this for two reasons.

        Firstly, this is the "Windows Vista" style of "upgrade". CCTV is no substitute for a real policeman. The presence of an actual person is reassuring to the law abiding and off-putting to the crims.

        Secondly, in the 1800s, "Bill the Copper" was not an arm of the Government. Have a look at Robert Peel's original principles: "the police are the public, and the public are the police" []. Of course it is not like that any more. The Government has been interfering with the police,

      • by twostix ( 1277166 ) on Monday August 24, 2009 @08:51PM (#29180479)


        "Bill the Copper" didn't used to follow everyone around writing down their every action while in public and storing it to be retrieved at will by the current or future government.

        On the other hand "Ivan the KGB Agent" and "Wilhelm the Stasi Agent" did.

        See the difference?

      • 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 FudRucker ( 866063 ) on Monday August 24, 2009 @07:13PM (#29179559)
    i would really hate to have my privacy intruded upon while walking around in public ;p

    of course it is a waste of funds, all the money spent on those camera would probably pay for an extra dozen police cars or hire several more police officers to patrol the higher crime infested areas...
    • by frosty_tsm ( 933163 ) on Monday August 24, 2009 @07:49PM (#29179891)

      i would really hate to have my privacy intruded upon while walking around in public ;p

      Solid point. However, there is a difference between:
      - Your actions going unrecorded in public
      - Your actions being recorded as a matter of chance (someone random taking your picture or accidentally including you in one)
      - Your actions always being recorded.

    • by dnaumov ( 453672 )

      i would really hate to have my privacy intruded upon while walking around in public ;p

      That's an oxymoron you are describing. You don't have any privacy in public, they are exact opposites of each other.

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

    It's all about intimidating law-abiding citizens.


    • The country that brought you Big Brother is bringing you ... Big Brother.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by geckipede ( 1261408 )
      But nobody is intimidated by them. They're not like speed cameras where you can be certain that anything you do wrong will be noticed. We all know damn well that on the other side of the lens there isn't an army of jack-booted thugs waiting to haul us away, all there is watching us is a bored person sitting in an office surrounded by screens, and that person doesn't care.
  • Thats some dangerous thinking there SpuriousLogic. I think someone wants to visit the Ministry of Love.
  • The current ones suffer from being blurry, so ID can not be made. If they upgraded to HD quality, then they could see the criminals' faces.

    • Sure. Lets throw way more money at it and hope it works.

      Great idea.

      Meanwhile, criminals are reading your post and laughing their asses off. Like they give a shit about HD...

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by asifyoucare ( 302582 )

      How the hell is that off-topic? The low definition is a major reason why they aren't being used to secure convictions.

  • The Greater London Assembly is introducing CCTV cameras claimed to "predict" if a crime is about to take place [] and alert operators to suspicious behaviour, such as loitering, apparent thought in public, walking while brown or not spending money fast enough.

    Anyone spotted may then have to explain their behaviour to a police officer. "Tough on lack of consumer confidence, tough on the causes of lack of consumer confidence," said Nick Hewitson of EDS Capita Goatse SmartCCTV. ("Consumer confidence" is a technical economics jargon term measuring willingness to casually spend ridiculous sums of cash on idiotic rubbish, particularly while drunk.)

    "Only a criminal terrorist paedophile with something to hide could possibly object," said councillor Jason Fazackarley. "Criminals will pay much better attention to their dress and grooming with cameras there. Channel 4 has tentatively offered us a reality TV show. And Channel 5 would quite like the tapes of drunken shagging in shop delivery bays."

    The project has been compared to the Tom Cruise science-fiction film Minority Report, in which psychic journalists are arrested on CCTV before they commit the crime of not peppering articles with the most obvious possible cliches copied from other papers.

    However, Stephen Fry has delivered a crushing blow to the project with an unfortunately-timed negative review on his Twitter feed: "++ungood crimethink brb txtspk lol."

  • by sunderland56 ( 621843 ) on Monday August 24, 2009 @07:18PM (#29179615)
    CCTV cameras are a one-time installation cost (with a minor amount of maintenance). Regular police forces are a continuous cost.

    A million cameras capture 1 per 1000 = 1,000 criminals caught per year. The following years should catch an equivalent number - for little additional cost. This is one of the basic problems with news reporting - if the BBC had splashed a big story headlined "CCTV Cameras Catch 1,000 Per Year", there would be an entirely different public reaction.
    • And that's called spin. :)
    • wrong. If that money had been spent elsewhere it may very well have solved more crimes [extra police doing their jobs for example] if having spent the money elsewhere would have stopped 1000+ crimes a year I doubt the public reaction to that situation would be positive.

    • Actually, it costs money to power them, and it costs money to have someone monitoring them. In fact, there was an article not too long ago talking about how thousands of cameras aren't even turned on because they can't afford it.

      • by blueg3 ( 192743 )

        The power is fairly cheap, but the monitoring and maintenance aren't.

        It's like US "information-gathering" capabilities. Say what you will about a new method of the FBI or NSA "watching you" -- on the large scale they're tightly constrained by the resources necessary to sift through data.

    • Your maths works out, if you assume that there's no cost involved with obtaining camera footage, searching it, and producing compelling and admissible evidence. If you don't get that last bit, I'll spell it out for you: English courts are lucky to have a VCR in them, let alone a DVD player, which would be a problem if the police had the resources to make DVDs. "Luckily", they don't - most forces can barely manage a crappy VCR transfer, and the costs (in time) are prohibitive for all but the most high prof

    • by qbzzt ( 11136 ) on Monday August 24, 2009 @07:56PM (#29179975)

      The cameras are mostly a one-time cost. However, to have people monitoring them is a continuous expense. Given the relative costs of technology vs. labor, I suspect that's a large part of the cost.

  • by e2d2 ( 115622 ) on Monday August 24, 2009 @07:26PM (#29179691)

    We need more cameras with better quality. HD quality with multiple lenses to also read in different spectrums such as infrared and ultraviolet and of course these should have sensitive shotgun microphones. If we deploy ten times the number of cameras that are currently out there we can stop these dirty crooks and rid he world of crime once and for all!

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      "...of course these should have big-assed shotguns"

      There, fixed that for you.

    • by bugi ( 8479 )

      Do tell. How would you quantify LIVES vs privacy vs money?

      What about lesser crimes, like robbery?

      What about rape and kidnapping?

      Or better yet, victimless crimes like smoking a joint?

  • 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.

  • ONE THOUSAND?! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by uwnav ( 1009705 ) * on Monday August 24, 2009 @07:49PM (#29179895)
    Lets have your grandma walk down the street, get mugged, break her hip and be traumatized. How many CCTVs would you be willing to put up to reduce the chances of that ever happening again? This privacy thing is getting incompetent, when you're in the public.. you're in the public. Unless someone has CCTVs pointing into your house. Appreciate the fact that if someone knifed you in the street, you have a better chance of catching that person
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ex_ottoyuhr ( 607701 )

      By your logic, there was nothing wrong with Guantanamo Bay.

      The right answer is not to dive into the ethically dubious (or the ethically outrageous, in the case of using torture); it's to look for the solution that works best, not the solution that sounds scariest. CCTVs are security theater with particularly creepy overtones; sustained police foot patrols are a better way of helping grandmothers, and anyone else. See also my comment just below, linking to Dalrymple on the lack of police commitment.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by xigxag ( 167441 )

      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: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Maxo-Texas ( 864189 )

      Let's fine you every single time you break any law.

      31mph in a 30mph zone-- fine by mail the next day. One for each occurence of course-- so every 1250 feet, another fine-- as long as you are breaking the law.

      Spit on the sidewalk?

      Drop a piece of paper on the sidewalk?

      You probably don't have any idea how many times a week you break the law.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by slim ( 1652 )

        I bloody hate litterers, so I'd be happy to see you getting fined every time you did it. You'd soon stop. Me, I don't do it.

        Speeding, similarly: we only consider moderate speeding as a grey area, because we're so seldom punished for it. Fix that and people would stop doing it.

  • Theodore Dalrymple's opinion on the matter is that the police in England just don't bother [] to solve most crimes -- hardly even to investigate them. That their cameras do such a horrible job of helping criminal investigations shouldn't be a surprise, then; technology is only useful if it's used.

    On the other hand, it's merciful that this kind of technology is not used. Privacy is an important thing, and it's not at all true that the only people who have cause to desire it are those who have something to hide;

  • 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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 24, 2009 @09:08PM (#29180627)

    The rate of alcohol consumption per capita in the UK is double that of the 50s. (sorry, was reading that the other day but I didn't bookmark it, some UK paper)Crime goes up the more drunks you have. Just human reality. Drunks don't care about *anything*, they lose the ability to think straight, cameras or no cameras. They'll act out aggressively without a second thought, or do other stupid stuff like pull street crime. Drunks or druggies, an easy wallet or purse grab plus a bit of sport making people hurt, they dig it.

    That's not all the reasons for increased crime, but it is a big part of it.

    Anyway, those cameras....this is my real point. Bull SHIT it was to reduce normal street crime, it is conditioning to get people there to accept full big brother action, and they have for the most part. One step at a time. First in public, now they are going to be putting them in "problem family homes". After that is accepted, they will expand the list so more fall under the "problem" category (like the US has that totally illegal and should have caused regime change by now big brother "no fly" list that all the cowering "flying public" herd animal peons accept, so it is no better there).

      Once they have enough cameras installed under the "problem family" category, they'll go all the way to every place, every home, every business, every building and all over outside. And if you refuse, well there you go, you are now a "problem", you are a "resister" so they have a precedent to do it that YOU accepted before without revolt as long as it wasn't "all that bad".

    If you wait until it "gets that bad", well gee, it IS that bad then and you blew your chance to stop it and now are stuck in some hideous north korean styled society, just with better tech, and you WON'T be able to revolt or stop things then. They already disarmed the population there, fed them that crap about "reducing crime". What a crock. Have to retreat inside your own home..and they get people to accept that insanity...I mean..damn

    You change things before they "get that bad", or accept your shackles and keep your eyes lowered and mind your masters. There is NO middle ground there, and you won't be negotiating with your owners either, nor their armed bully boys.

      ALL societies eventually reach that stage, no exceptions. Tech keeps getting better as history marches on, but despotism is ALWAYS the end game with societies that let government have more power than the people, and it turns into an "us versus them" deal and the ones with the most weapons and power and authority win, or there is a revolution and everyone loses because they waited too long to keep things sane.

        So keep drinking heavy, blitzed into perpetual stupidity. They *want* you that way, "solving street crime" is NOT their main priority.

        That's one of the ways they keep their herds under control. Petty crime, or even a rise in serious crime, is a trivial expense for them to have their populations dumbed down and compliant and accepting all sorts of crap like surveillance cameras, no fly lists, data bases, more and more regulations and "permits" needed for this or that. Drunkeness, drugged, illegal and "doctors prescription" drugs, bread and circuses plus disarm the serfs and peons and heavily arm the state's bully boys=controlled populations. That's the formula they always use.

        1% masters controlling 99% of the people, and it is apparently easy to do, it keeps happening over and over again.

    • not just alcohol (Score:3, Interesting)

      by hany ( 3601 )

      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 "t

  • by straponego ( 521991 ) on Monday August 24, 2009 @09:34PM (#29180861)
    If we had 33.625 times as many cameras, ALL the robbers would have been captured.
  • by Yousef ( 66495 ) on Monday August 24, 2009 @11:13PM (#29181693)

    Ahhh... but local councils have turned it into a prodigious cash cow by catching motorists making minor traffic infractions and fining them... as my father found out last week.

    But think of the Children/Terrorists/Drugs....

  • 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.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by houghi ( 78078 )

      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 y

God made the integers; all else is the work of Man. -- Kronecker