Thursday, September 20, 2007

Big Brother is a Rotten Detective

Tens of thousands of CCTV cameras, yet 80% of crime unsolved | This is London £200 million or about ($402 million) has been spent putting closed circuit TV cameras in London. Overall the number of crimes solves seems low to me, but the percent cleared by borough correlates poorly with the number of cameras installed.
A comparison of the number of cameras in each London borough with the proportion of crimes solved there found that police are no more likely to catch offenders in areas with hundreds of cameras than in those with hardly any.

In fact, four out of five of the boroughs with the most cameras have a record of solving crime that is below average.
Now, I'm not sure, but "This is London" isn't the Times or the Telegraph, and I think it is not viewed as well in the UK. So I thought I would see what others had to say.

The Times (that's the REAL Times, not the NY Times) mentions that no stats are available from the government specifically on the use of CCTV.
The Crown Prosecution Service, for example, has no figures on the success of CCTV in prosecuting crime. As for prevention, violent crime has doubled in the ten years since CCTV came to blanket the country.
Not satisfied with stationery cameras, British police are now buying drones at £30,000 apiece.
But I’m told by Merseyside Police – the first force to buy a drone – that the flying spy has been “a great success and people feel they’ve reclaimed their parks”.

Has the drone’s footage been used as evidence to prosecute or arrest anyone? No. Not much of a success then.
Citizens and their right to privacy don't matter to Big Brother.

Even the senior police officers recognize that the cameras come with a risk. The Telegraph has a story about one such officer.
Ian Redhead, the deputy chief constable of Hampshire, said Britain risked moving toward an "Orwellian" society. While also calling for a review of speed cameras and the policy to retain DNA, he questioned the need on BBC1's The Politics Show for CCTV in villages with low crime levels.

"If it's in our villages, are we really moving towards an Orwellian situation where cameras are at every street corner?" he said. "I really don't think that's the kind of country that I want to live in."
Would it be worth it if the cameras actually helped solve crimes? But they don't.
Listeners to a BBC Radio Cleveland debate on security systems were told by Judge Peter Fox, QC, that the images produced by such cameras were almost invariably poor and a waste of money.
...
He told the radio show host Matthew Davies: "I preside over some very serious cases - murder, rape and robbery. The footage from CCTV is increasingly being used but it is extremely rare indeed for it to be of any use."
Actually the growing crime that seems to be the best match for CCTV is people putting their feet on railway car seats.
Three hundred more passengers are due to be prosecuted for putting their feet on the seats on Merseyrail trains, despite a ruling by magistrates yesterday against the train company in a similar case.
A wonderful use of the courts' time.

In our rush to make ourselves safer, we are handing away our liberty. And make no mistake, the US is heading down this same road with more cameras in more places - at least in the big cities. Britain being smaller than the US - and having started sooner - is just realizing the issues earlier. But I still have to agree with Benjamin Franklin.
Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.
I am sure that a totalitarian state could reduce crime. I don't want to live there.

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