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Big Brother Is Watching: Local council controlled CCTV cameras treble in a decade

Research conducted by Big Brother Watch reveals that in less than 10 years the number of CCTV cameras controlled by local councils has risen from 21,000 to 60,000.
 
Top lines from the research (full breakdown by local authority available here) include:

  • There are currently at least 59,753 CCTV cameras controlled by 418 local authorities in Britain, up from 21,000 in 1999
  • This equates to 1 council owned CCTV camera for every 1000 people in the country
  • Portsmouth and Nottinghamshire Councils are in control of the most CCTV cameras with 1,454 each

  • Residents in the Outer Hebrides are the most watched people in the UK with 8.3 CCTV cameras controlled by the council for every 1000 people. Portsmouth has the second highest number of CCTV cameras per 1000 people with 7.8

  • The council controlling the highest number of CCTV cameras in Scotland is Fife with 1350 cameras
  • The council in Wales controlling the highest number of CCTV cameras is Swansea with 326 cameras
  • The council controlling the highest number of CCTV cameras in Northern Ireland is Belfast with 400 cameras
  • The total number of CCTV cameras controlled by councils in London is 8,112, which equals 1.2 CCTV cameras for every 1000 people living in the capital. Wandsworth is the most watched borough in London with 1113 CCTV cameras, or 4.3 cameras for every 1000 residents

Research conducted by Big Brother Watch – the new campaign fighting intrusions on privacy and protecting liberties – has revealed that Britain’s local councils are currently in control of 59,753 CCTV cameras. When a similar study was conducted 10 years ago, the authors found there were approximately 21,000 cameras in just 86% of local authorities; which equates to a rise of 279 per cent in under a decade.

Big Brother Is Watching is the first report by Big Brother Watch bringing together the various arguments against CCTV and placing them alongside a definitive list of the number of CCTV cameras operated by Britain’s 428 local authorities, to establish the full extent of Britain’s local authority controlled surveillance.

Alex Deane, Director of Big Brother Watch, said:

"Local councils across Britain are creating enormous networks of CCTV surveillance at great expense, but the evidence for the ability of CCTV to deter or solve crimes is sketchy at best.

"The quality of footage is frequently too poor to be used in courts, the cameras are often turned off to save money and control rooms are rarely manned 24-hours-a-day.

"With crime on the increase, it is understandable that some people want more CCTV, but we would all feel safer with more police on the beat, there would be fewer crimes and those crimes that do occur would be solved faster."

To read the full report, which includes detailed information on every local authority, please click here.

Posted on by Big Brother Watch Posted in CCTV

41 Responses to Big Brother Is Watching: Local council controlled CCTV cameras treble in a decade

  1. Jess The Dog

    I’d like to see a national map of every CCTV camera and arcs of vision.
    This can be done.
    FOI every local authority asking the easting and northing of every camera, in spreadsheet form. They will have this data!
    Stick a buffer around each camera (say 200m). This might overlap with private property in many cases.
    Display it on mapping at national/regional/local level.
    I can do the mapping easily, free of charge.

  2. Tom Reeve

    Congratulations on using the power of the FOI Act to compile these numbers – it must have been a huge undertaking, but to what point? All you have demonstrated is that CCTV is growing in numbers, which we all knew anyway.
    I fundamentally disagree with the points that you go on to make, especially regarding the expensiveness and ineffectiveness of CCTV. You make sweeping claims about CCTV but it’s unclear to me whether you are referring to publicly or privately owned systems when you make statements like most CCTV is not monitored and CCTV images aren’t good enough to be used in court.
    You also make claims about the amount we spend on CCTV with very little evidence to back it up. Compared to the amount we spend on the police (£10bn a year), the amount spent on CCTV is minute. And the return on investment is significant.
    I think you are playing fast and loose with the numbers and drawing dubious conclusions from a research project that was, really, very limited in its scope and depth.
    You can find out more about my views on your report by reading my blog post at http://cctvimage.blogspot.com/ or http://www.cctvimage.com.

  3. I Spy

    Very interesting site, glad you are making others aware of the situation in the UK. Some news from Fife with regards to CCTV usage which might be of use for future articles:
    Portable CCTV: http://www.fifefire.gov.uk/news/index.cfm?fuseaction=news.display&objectid=32B7430F-A57E-7A65-7D8C86C296DBB20F&ContactId=5D1F6802-1798-4A3F-949BFD1BF622F41C
    Fife CCTV: http://www.heraldscotland.com/800-criminals-captured-by-fife-cctv-in-a-record-year-1.898624
    The CCTV system in Fife is the largest single-fibre network in Europe, what makes this worse is the fact that Fife is made up of many small towns so the amount of cameras per person is in excessive portions. The cameras were being used as a showcase to the American police forces when they were first launched with many American delegates visiting the Glenrothes CCTV control room, however due to the size of the towns they are monitoring, there is little crime compared to City Centres such as Glasgow, so the cameras are mainly being used to target traffic offenders using Number Plate recognition software etc. The biggest scandal about the cameras is that recently a person in the Lochgelly area was stabbed to death several feet from one of the CCTV cameras and it was later discovered that the CCTV camera captured nothing other than 8 traffic offenders (driving without insurance, no MOT discs, etc.) which resulted in £250 generated from fines.

  4. Eric Twinge

    As someone who responded to an FOI request for this study, and despite being strongly in favour of open government, I am very disappointed to see that there has been no effort to discern where the cameras concerned are (100% of them in our case) used to protect council buildings in the same way that homeowners use CCTV. This is clearly not the use that this study is focusing on in its laudable attempt to expose waste in public spending. Since our buildings are more than 200 metres away from others, this does not even threaten the liberty of passers-by.
    I agree with Tom Reeve in that this has been a PR campaign, rather than a serious discussion point. It is galling for someone who works hard to ensure these requests are answered as fully as possible (in the interests of fairness & openness), to see the results so mis-represented.

  5. Alex Deane

    An interesting extended analysis of our report and the issues it raises:
    http://mambotangoneversettle.blogspot.com/2010/01/one-nation-under-tv_22.html#links

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    This might overlap with private property in many cases.

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    An interesting extended analysis of our report and the issues it raises:

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    “1 council owned CCTV camera for every 1000 people”
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    It’s kind of a double edged sword.  On one hand its good for security, have seen culprits identified numerous times using CCTV, but on the other hand there is the privacy issue.
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  34. ticfan

    Fife Councillor George Kay said today that Fife has just over 100 CCTV cameras and not the number that BB say they have. Who’s correct?
    See this http://www.fife.gov.uk/topics/index.cfm?fuseaction=page.display&p2sid=6C1CF778-C6DA-BAEC-85B682D3716E6CB4&themeid=2B892409-722D-4F61-B1CC-7DE81CC06A90

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