The government’s Surveillance Camera Commissioner Tony Porter this week announced that there are now over six million cameras in the UK. When set in context of the national population, that means there is one camera for every 10 people across the nation, adding fuel to fears that Britain is in danger of becoming a surveillance state.
What’s more, Mr. Porter believes that the six million figure does not actually come close to enumerating the total number of surveillance devices in the UK, since it does not include drones, number plate recognition cameras or devices worn by police officers and security staff.
The announcement came in the form of a strategy document drafted by Mr. Porter in conjunction with reducing the number of cameras on our streets. In the past, Mr. Porter has compared the lavish outlay on surveillance devices by the UK government – estimated to sit at around £2.1 billion – as akin to purchasing a top European football club.
While this comparison might seem a little contrived, the fact remains that Britain is estimated to own roughly 20% of all CCTV systems worldwide, despite only hosting less than 1% of the global population. Whichever way you look at it, such an extent of surveillance seems like overkill.
Mr. Porter suggested that CCTV units are often a knee-jerk reaction to recurrent instances of crime, without enough research being done into whether they will actually be beneficial in curbing rates of theft or assault. Indeed, he went on to suggest that of the six million cameras across the UK, many of them are ineffective.
Poor quality, poor positioning?
Despite the fact that Britain boasts an excessive number of cameras, it’s feared that many of these are virtually useless due to being older models which don’t provide enough resolution to aid authorities in instances of criminal activity. Furthermore, it’s also thought that countless others are simply placed in the wrong positions, meaning that the footage they do record does little to discourage crime or antisocial behaviour.
“Technology can support law enforcement and protect society,” explained Mr. Porter. “My concern is about the introduction of poor surveillance that doesn’t benefit society. We have millions of cameras in this country and Europeans look at us askance that our society actually accepts the volume of cameras we do.”
He called on local councils to do more to evaluate their existing CCTV networks to determine whether or not they are providing value on investment. Indeed, when one West Midlands council reviewed its CCTV strategy last year, they determined that one-third of the cameras in operation were ineffective and saved UK taxpayers £250,000 by decommissioning them.
CCTV in the home
While the efficacy (and morality) of the widespread use of public CCTV cameras is a contentious issue, there can surely be no debate about their effectiveness in a more private capacity. Every day, home surveillance systems are instrumental in fighting crime, both as a deterrent and an incontrovertible piece of evidence.
Any home or business owner who does not currently safeguard their property with CCTV should look to rectify the situation at the soonest possible opportunity, in order to avoid unpleasant consequences if disaster does strike.
At Blackburn Alarms, we have a whole host of intruder alerts, CCTV cameras and access control systems to increase safety and give you peace of mind around your household. To find out more about how we can help secure your home or workplace, get in touch with us today.