You 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.