Loss of Royston’s “ring of steel” hasn’t caused crime wave

camerasYou may remember the now infamous “ring of steel” system of ANPR cameras that was placed around Royston, which was ruled to be unlawful by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). A year on from that ruling, figures have been published which show that since Hertfordshire Police was forced to dismantle the system there hasn’t been a sudden and uncontrollable outbreak of lawlessness and crime.

Crime statistics, recently released by Hertfordshire Police, show that between April and June 2013, when the ANPR system was still in place,172 crimes were committed. When comparing this to the same period in 2014 it turns out that 171 crimes were recorded, a drop of 1.

The scheme originally involved the position of ANPR cameras in such a way that it was impossible for motorists to drive in or out of the town without being filmed. In July 2013, the ICO ruled that the Police had failed to carry out “any effective impact assessments” whilst commenting  that “it is difficult to see why a small rural town … requires cameras monitoring all traffic in and out of the town, 24 hours a day”.

This news would therefore indicate that the joint complaint that Big Brother Watch, Privacy International and No CCTV made to the Information Commissioner’s Office about the “excessive” nature of the scheme was wholly correct.

The figures further demonstrate the need for any authority that is considering installing surveillance camera system to carry out effective and thorough privacy impact assessments before any cameras are installed. According to the CCTV Code of Practice (PDF), the process should always include an appraisal of whether the action is necessary and proportionate to the problem that it is trying to solve.

These statistics would certainly reinforce what Big Brother Watch has highlighted in the past; that all too often surveillance camera systems are put in place without there being an evidential basis for them being there. It also shows that the policy of indiscriminate surveillance, that has for so long been justified on grounds of crime prevention, is wholly flawed.



Posted by on Aug 1, 2014 in ANPR, CCTV, Surveillance | 3 Comments


  1. simon green
    3rd August 2014

    Totaly confused. Whist i admit it seems odd to want to have these cameras up in such number in the first place, I do not understand what the opening crime stats are meant to show or prove. Can you supply the crime data set of the 170 crimes talked about?

    What offences were they relate to? Whether a car was even involved? Whether ANPR cameras were able to supply any useful evidence in relation to the 171 crimes previously carried out? Do you have a data set of crimes BEFORE the ANPR Cameras were installed.

  2. Anonymous
    5th August 2014

    But these days it isn’t just Royston. Many County Highways departments have been seduced into buying CCTV systems for “traffic control” purposes. And the method of choice for identifying traffic jams is our good old friend ANPR. Whereas the Council will only use a “deidentified tag” for measuring journey times, they do however “share” the whole system with the Police (who will undoubtedly squirrel it all away at Hendon for future use). The Bucks County policy on this can be found on their web site. In particular see point 1.7 in https://democracy.buckscc.gov.uk/documents/s20016/PT14.11%20ANPR%20Code%20of%20Practice.pdf

  3. simon green
    3rd September 2014

    I can honestly say i have never known ANPR to be used to detect traffic jams. And it it exceptionally unlikely that detecting traffic jams would ever be used as point of interest in gaining money for ANPR cameras. But yes all the info is squirreled away.. but the point is they that have absolutely no interest in it unless a car has been used (or connected to) crime. Most of the time there is not even the resources to act on low level criminal info never mind cars that do not even ping the system.