British Governing Councils Criticized for CCTV Expenditures

Police cite instances when CCTVs have been instrumental in solving crimes.
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British governing councils are being criticized for spending 315 million pounds on closed circuit television (CCTV) despite slashing jobs and public services, but police cite instances when CCTVs have been instrumental in solving crimes, according to published reports.

The authorities’ commitment to keeping the streets under surveillance seems undiminished by the cuts being made to bring the nation’s finances back into check, and a survey of 336 governing councils shows why Britain has been dubbed the “big brother” capital of the world.

Advocates for civil liberties have said the survey’s findings are “scandalous” and the money would have been better spent on schools, hospitals and other vital services.

However, Britain’s largest police force says that CCTV helps its officers solve six crimes every day by identifying suspects. The hundreds of millions of pounds spent on CCTV is the latest sign that Britain’s move to a “Surveillance Society” seems unstoppable, say opponets. Surreptitious and unaccountable surveillance practices aided by weak legal protection have mushroomed faster than anywhere else in the world.

CCTV now logs the movements of Britons walking along high streets up to 300 times per day.

Topping the list is Birmingham City Council, which has put up more than 200 cameras in two largely Muslim areas at a cost of 10.5 million pounds; followed by Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council which spent 5.3 million pounds.

Leeds City Council spent 3.8 million pounds, followed by Edinburgh Council which spent 3.6 million pounds and Hounslow Council which spent 3.5 million pounds.

Alex Deane, of the group Big Brother Watch, said 315 million pounds is a shocking figure. The money is being wasted on snooping surveillance that does next to nothing to prevent or solve crime, he said. “We are being watched more than ever before, and we’re being ripped off into the bargain,” Deane said. “British taxpayers will be scandalized to see their money being thrown away like this in the current economic climate,” he added.

Nonetheless, Detective Chief Inspector Mick Neville said Scotland Yard has revolutionized the use of CCTV by treating it like DNA or fingerprints. During 2010, the number of suspects identified by Scotland Yard’s identification unit reached 2,512—which is a 25 percent increase—thanks to CCTV, he said: “The key to our success is that images are treated as a forensic discipline,” he added. “It is not the technology, it is more about managing it in a way that produces the best results. That is why we have got police forces from around the world coming to see how we do it.”

Among those apprehended because of CCTV include:

  • Saudi prince Saud Abdulaziz bin Nasir Al Saud, 34, who was recorded committing an assault that led to an investigation which uncovered the murder of Bandar Abdulaziz, 32, who was the prince’s manservant.
  • Harpreet Aulakh who was recorded buying the machete used to murder Geeta Aulakh, 28, his estranged wife and mother of two.
  • Daniel Ransom, Ross Collender, both 21, and Jordan Dixon, 17, who were recorded kicking Ben Gardner, 30, to death in the street over a Halloween hat.
  • Muktar Said Ibrahim, Hussain Osman, Ramzi Mohammed and Yassin Omarwho were identified two weeks after the July 7, 2005 London bombings based on CCTV analysis.
  • Leon Elcock and Hamza Lyzai who were recorded killing elderly London resident Ekram Haque, who was murdered in front of his three-year-old granddaughter Marian.
  • Ruby Thomas, then 17, and Joel Alexander, 18, who were recorded kicking Ian Baynham to death because he was holding hands with another man.