Londoners are among the most surveyed people anywhere in the world, captured by cameras in nearly every aspect of their daily lives. Some reports have estimated that Britain is home to as many as 20% of the world’s total CCTV cameras. In November 2011 Transport for London announced it was looking to spend between £20m and £60m on its CCTV capability.
Research published today by Big Brother Watch casts serious doubt on whether that investment will do anything to reduce crime or improve public safety.Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information act show how:
• TFL operates at least 82,826 CCTV cameras
• In the last twelve months, 6,972 police requests for footage were granted by TFL
• Accordingly, footage from 91.6% of cameras was not used by the police
This is hardly surprising, given it reflects previous academic studies into the use of CCTV. Indeed, the Metropolitan Police’s own research found how fewer than one crime was solved by every 1,000 cameras in the capital. Yet the British fondness for CCTV shows no sign of waning, despite a lack of any credible evidence existing that CCTV either deters or prevents crime.
The significant resources being spent on surveillance are diverting money away from policing methods that could prevent crime and protect the public. CCTV is not a substitute for policing.
Britian is unique in the widespread and relentless use of CCTV across every aspect of our lives. It continues to represent a disproportionate intrusion into the privacy of law abiding people, without delivering a corresponding improvement in public safety.
You can download the report here.