The eyes that don’t see

September 2, 2009 at 2:00 am Leave a comment

Police officers monitor CCTV screens in the control room at New Scotland Yard in LondonIt’s a good week for privacy-related news and stuff on surveillance.  I had to chuckle when I read an article from BBC News. London is the proud owner of over one million CCTV cams (yeegads: could they be any more surveillance obsessed!) and this network of mindless, blinking eyes managed to solve a staggering amount of crimes in 2008.

No wait: that would be the answer the people “who have nothing to hide” brigade would give.  The true answer is every 1,000 CCTV cams, staring down on London citizens and all their activities, only manages to solve…….one crime. Yep, you read that number correctly: one crime.

So that’s one crime for every 1,000 CCTV. Yet, the investment in these CCTV cams is a massive £500m. Mmmmm…..not sure Government dudes that this is such a great return on your investment.  Apparently,  £500m is three quarters of the Home Office’s total spending on crime prevention.

An internal Scotland Yard report was obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and revealed these stats on CCTV (in)effectiveness. It was also highly critical of many things I’ve blogged about before. The Home Office UK also conducted research and found that this supposed major crime fighting tool was best at catching petty thieves lurking in car parks. And a 5 year statistical study based on crime rates at two apartment complexes in the US (2002-2006) showed no persuasive evidence that the installation of cameras reduced the crime rate.

CCTV is simple remote policing.  You may think it makes you safer but given the Scotland Yard report statistics, clearly all it does is make you THINK you are safer. A more effective use of £500m would be more visible policing of streets – if people want to feel safer, no better thing than seeing some beefy police dudes patrolling. I’m afraid I wouldn’t be game enough to walk down any dark alley that boasted CCTV – I’d rather have that alley well lit. So how about putting the £500m towards better street lighting?

Why not pour the money into programmes that could very well prevent crime? For example, teaching parents good parenting skills so their kids don’t end up as delinquents roaming the streets and vulnerable to criminal acts.  Or what about empowering local communities? If pubs and clubs are magnets for youth who end up drunk or commit crimes, allow a community to shut them down.  Why not give funds to local communities to come up with their own crime-cutting ideas and programmes?

Our society is one of blame and punishment, so why not spend part of the £500m figuring out how to make following the law more attractive? How do we reward socially acceptable or positive behaviour?

Or how about setting up a programme where ex-crims are put together with youth in a mentoring situation. And by this, I’m not talking mentoring a young person into crime! But perhaps a condition of the person’s parole is that once a week, he/she has to meet with a troubled youth, talking about how crime usually lands one in jail and talking to the youth about better pathways in life. If the young person gets into trouble, bingo, the crim goes back to jail.

There must be better ways to achieve crime prevention than throwing £500m at blinking eyes that fail to stop crime at its root cause. What do you think?

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Entry filed under: CCTV, Surveillance society. Tags: .

Finger goes in, Coke comes out Don’t it make my brown eyes blue

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