Nine in Ten TFL CCTV cameras fail to solve a single crime

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.


  1. Nine in Ten TFL CCTV camera’s fail to solve a single Crime | Tainted Stream
    21st December 2011

    […] //… Posted on December 21, 2011 by Nick Pickles Posted in CCTV, Civil Liberties, Research and reports […]

  2. CCTV
    28th December 2011

    I understand bigbrotherwatch’s stance – however these stats don’t cover crimes prevented by the fact that criminals are more aware they “might” be caught and therefore might be put off committing crime in the first place!

    • Nigel B
      4th January 2012

      I think what you are saying is that you want to somehow prove a negative. You can’t. But what you can do is look at the crime figures for an area covered by cctv from before and after their installation. I’m ready to bet you’ll be hard pushed to find any camera anywhere making much of a difference. Failing that, read the academic reports about cctv. You’ll find them linked to on this site.

  3. Rod
    30th December 2011

    Rather a narrow minded view of the use of CCTV and its benefits. I agree with the previous comment. No matter how obvious footage may be in showing a crime i doubt this alone would be enough to convict a criminal, CCTV is an aid with greater emphasis i think on preventing crime. 

  4. Alex
    3rd January 2012

    What about the 1 in 10 (in the last 12 months) that does assist in providing evidence to some crime?

  5. Mike Gillespie
    4th January 2012

    A lot of the time, it is the lack of appropriate design consideration that is the issue and not whether there is CCTV or not.  Many installers do not produce effective operational requirements and many procurerements are run on the basis of most economically advantageous wins.  Buy cheap, get cheap.

  6. Sambsam
    5th January 2012

    CCTV is an invaluable tool in the fight against crime and terrorism. If I was in a railway station at night I would rather be under the surveillance of ten cameras than none. It is essential to provide comprehensive coverage because offenders are displaced from areas under surveillance to those without surveillance. It is necessary to assess the system as a whole – deterrence, displacement, public reassurance than to focus on a single headline figure that suits the agenda

    • Cammi
      25th March 2012

      Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.Benjamin Franklin (1706 – 1790)

  7. Pix
    6th January 2012

    @Sambsam I have to disagree with your view.  To me CCTV is a very unwelcome intrusion in my life and an invasion of privacy.  I hate knowing that everywhere we go we are being monitored and watched.  There is no reassurance element in CCTV for me.  I do not believe it prevents crime – look at the riots.  The looting and criminal damage happened in full view of TV cameras – did the use of cameras prevent crime – absolutely not.

    • Sambsam
      6th January 2012

      @fa03cc82f5053efcd4fba9a8cfc0076d:disqus  “The looting and criminal damage happened in full view of TV cameras – did the use of cameras prevent crime – absolutely not…….” The looting happened in the full view of the police as well …

      The presence of the police didn’t prevent the crimes – but the police will be using the CCTV evidence to identify and convict the offenders .. this is the purpose of CCTV.

      Properly monitored CCTV does prevent crime, act as a force multiplier for emergency services and secure convictions in court – multiple studies have supported this – hence the prevalence of CCTV.

  8. adam bonner
    10th January 2012

    There has never been a greater waste of resources than the massive expenditure on public CCTV cameras in the last two decades, particularly in the UK but also in other Western nations. Not only do they fail to reduce crime but there is little hard evidence that the dollar amounts being put into CCTV effectively detect or assist with the prosecution of crime. CCTV footage is notoriously poor in quality because of ill-focused cameras, bad compression of data and worse still omission of frames because of inadequate hardware/software. The result is that most cameras do not capture footage which allows for either reliable recognition or identification of alleged offenders. The police however still persist in their archaic and offensive disclosure of this information through their internet sites, resulting in false identifications and people being wrongly accused of things they had nothing to do with because they look similar to somebody in the footage. These are part of the hidden costs of the CCTV police state that nobody wants to talk about. The inadequate use of technology provides the anti-cctv lobby with strong ammunition (for further reading see Dr Peter Kovesi’s 2009 research “Video Surveillance: Legally Blind”) but never forget that the real issue here is whether the State should be able to engage in indiscriminate surveillance of law abiding citizens when they are going about their daily business. In my view the State should never be given this power.Surveillance of any kind should be subject to oversight preferably by the judiciary and based on intelligence which provides reasonable cause for the intrusion. The State should never be given a blank cheque, a carte blanche to intrude on people through constantly watching their movements and recording their personal information on accessible and soon to be aggregated databases. This isn’t consistent with a free and fair society, but it is consistent with fascism.   
    Adam Bonner

    • Sambsam
      10th January 2012

      Judges always ask the Police – “Why is the CCTV evidence that we see so awful?”

      The answer is – When the CCTV images are clear – the offenders always plead guilty and you never see them before you.

      The quality of the majority of CCTV cameras is marginal – in some cases it is awful – when it is good it is marvellous

      That is why the majoirty of the CCTV you see in the news is so awful

  9. Steven New
    11th January 2012

    Everything that Adam says below.