The public would be far safer if the money was spent on street lighting, proper policing and actually punishing criminals when they are caught, rather than giving them a slap on the wrist and putting them back on the streets. In too many towns we now have a CCTV on every street corner, yet never see a police officer there.
New figures have ignited fears that CCTV is “spiralling out of control” in Scotland after councils and police forces have spent more than £8 million to maintain their CCTV systems in the last year alone. There are now at least 4,114 public-space CCTV cameras and mobile camera vans across Scotland, with hundreds of staff employed to monitor them. The figures show that this is an increase of 1,000 cameras in less than a year.
The increase in cameras comes at a time when many other local authorities are, in fact, reassessing their use of CCTV, which has resulted in a decrease in the use of cameras.
Our previous research has been at the forefront of detailing the rise of CCTV in the UK - highlighting the cost of CCTV operations to UK local authorities as being £515m in the last four years, as well as the use of more than 100,000 CCTV cameras in British schools and academies.
The Scotsman references a series of statistics that would suggest that CCTV cameras have played a primary role in the arrests. However, what is revealing is that, to choose one example, out of the 1,806 camera assisted arrests in Edinburgh, there is no mention of how many of these arrests led to prosecutions
What is key is that recorded crime is now at its lowest level in 37 years, which unsurprisingly comes at a time when 1,000 additional police officers have been hired since 2007. Perhaps actually having police officers on the street catching criminals has something to do with the statistics.
The argument as to whether CCTV cameras actually work as a crime prevention tool could be quickly solved if local authorities and police forces published the instances where their CCTV cameras have been used in securing a conviction, and for what offences. If public authorities were made to justify the installation and maintenance of publicly funded CCTV by referring to crime statistics, I would imagine we would swiftly see the number of cameras decrease.