Monday, 29 April 2013

Is more CCTV the answer?

As is normally the case I missed Full council Thursday night, I was selfishly spending time with my family and
E4 Comedy night - my one and only vice.

As usual I did diligently read through some tweets from those more dedicated than I and it appears one of my favourite subjects was debated, CCTV.

I know that within Liberal circles it is somewhat of a dirty word, an obvious tool of the state to oppress and supervise its' citizens. This myth of the uniformed guard sat watching you as you walk down the street, that you are zoomed in on and examined has sprung up. As I've said in the past (though apparently I've accidentally deleted this!!!) -This is simply untrue.

There will be a disproportionate amount of cameras to operators in the control room, wherever that is, and the human eye can only view so many screens and interest is only piqued by something out of the ordinary. Watching crowds is like watching an anchovy ball in the ocean - you know what they're up to but you can't pick out a single fish and nor should you!

There are strict procedures for Operators and codes of conduct, there is also a level of training that all operators should go on which teaches you these important laws and codes. One important one for liberals is that you cannot zoom or follow an individual unless you have serious concerns, otherwise that is harassment, even if they are a known shop lifter walking through a Mall.

The other is that you only zoom in on someone to identify then then zoom out and you NEVER zoom in on a private residence. It is not only a sackable offence but can cause you to go to prison. So it isn't the evil all seeing eye many think it is.

There is another myth that it is the ultimate crime fighting tool. This too is flawed.

I do not deny that it is wonderful for capturing information and providing evidence to the Police. I've lost count of how many Police referrals I've signed or captured after the fact.

Also, for the sharper eyed operative you can spot potential trouble brewing and get law enforcement there or on standby and defuse a potentially deadly situation.

It is a fantastic tool for manhunts with freeze frames replacing dodgy photo fits for the public and police.

The big problem is they have to be facing the right way, sometimes - especially at zoomed in or at night, they can be too grainy for an accurate fix.

The other thing is, in my professional opinion as an SIA trained CCTV operator with some three years of doing this job, it doesn't cut crime.

It is hard to measure crime that isn't committed. It may deter some opportunistic crimes or move it elsewhere but it won't stop it.

I've seen footage of drunken brawls that have nearly caused death right in front of a security camera. I've seen thefts, break ins at a clearly labelled CCTV establishment and worst of all, I've watched a drunk guy accidentally take his own life and not been able to do a damn thing about it.

Alcohol or drugs lower inhibitions and people don't think of consequences until afterwards. Yeah, there is a good chance if all factors are favourable, that a criminal can be caught and convicted on the strength of CCTV footage and maybe they they will learn from it but at the same time there are ways and means of getting around it and the evidence. It is up to the operator to prove that the person urinating on a police car is definitely you.

Although I applaud the effect the limited deployment in Luton and Wayfield, I think that we shouldn't herald it as the solution to all our problems just yet.

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