Billions Spent on Britain’s Cameras Haven’t Cut Crime


Billions of pounds spent on Britain’s 4.2 million closed-circuit television cameras has not had a significant impact on crime, according to the senior police officer piloting a new database.

Detective Chief Inspector Mick Neville said it was a “fiasco” that only 3 per cent of street robberies in London were solved using CCTV.

Mr Neville, who heads the Visual Images, Identifications and Detections Office (Viido) unit, told the Security Document World Conference that the use of CCTV images as evidence in court has been very poor.

“Billions of pounds have been spent on kit, but no thought has gone into how the police are going to use the images and how they will be used in court,” he told the conference.

“It’s been an utter fiasco: only 3 per cent of crimes were solved by CCTV. Why don’t people fear it? [They think] the cameras are not working.”

The aim of the Viido unit is to improve the way that CCTV footage is processed, turning it into a third forensic specialism alongside DNA analysis and fingerprinting.

Britain has more CCTV cameras than any other country in Europe. But Mr Neville is reported in The Guardian as saying that more training was needed for officers who often avoided trawling through CCTV images “because it’s hard work”.

Viido had launched a series of initiatives including a new database of images that will be used to track and identify offenders using software developed for the advertising industry. This works by following distinctive brand logos on the clothing of unidentified suspects. By backtracking through images officers have often found earlier pictures of suspects where they have not been hiding their features.

Mr Neville said that Viido would be publishing pictures of suspects in mugging, rape and robbery cases on the internet from next month and building a national CCTV database that will hold images of convicted criminals and unidentified suspects.

Richard Thomas, the information commissioner, said: “We would expect adequate safeguards to be put in place to ensure the images are used only for crime detection purposes, stored securely and that access to images is restricted to authorised individuals. We would have concerns if CCTV images of individuals going about their daily lives were retained.”


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