Councils reassess their use of CCTV

camerasOne in five councils have reduced the number of CCTV cameras on the streets since 2010, with some having no cameras at all. Cost should not be the reason for making decisions about the tools needed to keep the public safe.  We have long argued for an approach based on community policing and the ‘broken windows’ experience from the USA. CCTV diverts resources away from efforts that have been proven to be more effective while increasing the blanket nature of public surveillance. Rather than just cutting cameras, how many councils are looking at what actually works to reduce crime?

Crime statistics from September 2012 showed that there had been an 8% decrease compared to the previous year’s survey; driven by significant reductions in vandalism, burglary and vehicle related theft. What is important is that crime is falling and the number of CCTV cameras is falling. Yet again the evidence demonstrates there’s – at best – a tenuous link and in reality no link between the number of CCTV cameras and crime levels.

The Freedom of Information request was submitted by Labour MP Gloria de Piero, of which 209 out of a total 326 local authorities in England responded to the request, 46 councils reported a reduction or have no “public facing” (not private cameras) CCTV cameras at all.

Ms de Piero has said: “CCTV is a vital tool in the fight against crime and the Government is making it harder for communities and authorities to use and place CCTV. Worryingly this also comes at a time when there are 15,000 fewer police officers and when many local authorities across the country have started to turn off street lighting just to save money.”

It is essential that CCTV is not a substitute for policing. The significant resources being spent on surveillance are diverting money away from policing methods that could prevent crime and protect the public. By using that same money that is currently being allocated to CCTV cameras there could be a significant increase in the nubers of police on the street preventing crimes from happening in the first place. Our research highlighted that the huge cost of installing, operating and maintaining CCTV cameras which, between 2007 and 2011, was £515 million. This could pay for 4,121 Police Constables or 5,894 PCSO’s.

The most important thing is that councils and the police use the most effective methods of keeping the public safe. Countless academic studies – and indeed the Home Office’s own research – show little link between public surveillance and crime. It is hoped that these figures will highlight the need to reassess the disproportionately high levels of CCTV use in Britain.

Posted by on Mar 11, 2013 in CCTV, Councils, Privacy, Surveillance | 10 Comments


  1. Guest
    11th March 2013

    What the fuck BBW?

    A few years back we were complaining about CCTV and suggesting that councils stop their use, now that they are doing exactly that we moaning about it.

    Get a grip.

    • Simon Green
      25th April 2014

      Does it not make logical sense to alter your views depending on what evidence is presented to you? If a person has never had their mind changed about anything before (i have on many occasions) i suspect that person may have a very closed and biased mind.

  2. NeverSurrender
    12th March 2013

    I completely agree with the last comment. BBW was campaigning against CCTV and still should be. Get these disturbing devices off our streets. We are all treated like criminals nowadays and that is so wrong!

    • Simon Green
      25th April 2014

      Being recorded is not the same as being treated like a criminal. you are (and always have been recorded, just in different ways. How you spend your money, where you live, how you move in and out of countries and over boarders. god even you shopping is recorded now. The one thing i find amusing is that when cctv first started i met many people with your view, on several occasions though these very same ppl have been quick to embrace it once they have found themselves unlucky enough to have become a victim of crime. ( i can recount 4 separate times this has happened)

  3. CCTV fails to prevent crime | Freedomwatch
    12th March 2013

    […] You can read the full piece on Big Brother Watch here. […]

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  7. don sumon
    24th February 2014

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  8. Simon Green
    25th April 2014

    These stats don’t seem quite right to me. I find it odd that year on year there is a fall in violent crime in town and city centres that has had the same curve in as the rise of cameras since about 2003 when there were heavily invested in. I know that correlation is not evidence of causation – and yes there will be other variables that would need to be accounted for, just seems strange that in the one area that cctv can be quite effective the numbers have dropped year on year

    Also can’t make heads or tails of the 515 million equating to 4,100 officers either. Where as you could argue that 515 million would just about cover training and paying officers for those 3 years the running costs after that would be MUCH higher than running cctv. There’s been recent research that suggests that it costs 80,000 a year to have a visible police officer on our streets.

    I would ague that CCTV when staffed and managed properly can both assist to prevent crime & solve crime