Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Leicester is the CCTV capital of Britain

Big Brother Watch has published a new report that shows local authorities have spent £515m on their CCTV operations in the past four years:
There are now at least 51,600 CCTV cameras controlled by local authorities, with five councils now operating more than 1,000 cameras. In comparison, £515m would put an extra 4,121 police constables on the streets – the equivalent of Northumbria police’s entire force.
You can download The Price of Privacy from the pressure group's website.

This is report is of particular interest to citizens of Leicester, as it reveals that their city has become what the Leicester Mercury calls "the CCTV capital of Britain" with more than 2,000 cameras monitoring them:
The city council has spent £3.7 million on new cameras over the past three years, and the number of surveillance cameras now stands at 2,083. It means the authority has more cameras than any other council in the country.
To set this extraordinary sum in context, look at this Mercury report from December of last year:
Plans have been drawn up by Leicester City Council to cut spending on bus services, libraries, festive decorations and homeless hostels – and more cuts will be announced by the council next week. 
Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby has announced draft budget proposals for children's services, housing, transport and neighbourhood services which will save a total of £600,000. 
Bus services and libraries face some of the heaviest cuts – though spending on road maintenance and children in care will increase. 
Next week, a second announcement will reveal even greater cuts to other areas of council spending. 
Sir Peter said: "We're being forced to cut £40 million over the next two years."
Leicester City Council has a horribly difficult situation to deal with, but I wonder if this attempt to curb crime and disorder by funding more and more cameras while cutting other services is not self-defeating. Public order comes from citizens  - whether they are in the public sector, the private or somewhere in between - going about their lawful business and naturally keeping an eye on what is going on, not from more and more heroic attempts at public surveillance.

And don't think that Leicester's cameras are confined to the city centre. As I showed 18 months ago, you can find them at the top of tall metal poles in areas of council housing miles into the outskirts.

Still, maybe it is appropriate that a city where 52 of the 54 councillors are from the Labour Party should look like something from beyond the old Iron Curtain?

1 comment:

Charlieman said...

Leicester City Council started to erect CCTV cameras in strange places following a series of sexual assaults around the Great Central pathway. The crimes were perpetrated in late afternoon/early evening so those cameras may have made a difference to the ultimate arrest and conviction. They may have provided decent evidence.

Following that exceptional set of circumstances, Leicester City Council did not remove the cameras. They erected more.

Nationally, there are 1200 people per CCTV camera. In Leicester, there are 147 people per CCTV camera.