back to article Home Office battles to make CCTV useful

The Home Office will today impose new police standards to encourage better use of surveillance footage, after its own research revealed that most of the millions of CCTV cameras watching the UK have no impact on crime. Ministers will also appoint a "CCTV regulator", according to The Daily Telegraph. The job will fall to Andy …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    'Ministers will also appoint a "CCTV regulator"'

    At least now we'll know who's watching the watchers...

    1. Ted Treen
      Big Brother


      but who's watching him?

  2. Paul_Murphy

    Maybe - and this may be a silly idea

    The governement should make people hold up their ID cards so that the CCTV cameras can read them - all the time.

    Or maybe everyone should have an RFID chip in the back of their necks, so that they can be identified and tracked.

    Or maybe a barcode tattooed onto their forehead?

    After all if you're not doing anything wrong .....


  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    the Home Office crime prevention budge?

    I think you meant to say "budgie". The creature has seen little mention of late, but I think more recognition should be given to his tireless efforts.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      HOW MUCH?!?!?

      Regarding the budgie:-

      "Today's news however seemingly indicates officals believe police are not making best use of surveillance cameras, which account for three-quarters of the Home Office crime prevention budget."


      "... three-quarters of the Home Office crime prevention budget."

      HOW MUCH?!?!?

      "... three-quarters of the Home Office crime prevention budget."

      Is that for real?

      Does that mean, if that part of the budget was done away with completely, we could have the total Home Office crime prevention budget halved at the same time as doubling the funding for everything else in that crime prevention budget?

      1. Nebulo

        And ...

        That's not only three-quarters of the Home Office crime prevention budget. ...

        That's three-quarters of the Home Office crime prevention budget FOR A DECADE OR MORE.


  4. jason 7 Silver badge

    Just doesnt work.

    CCTV doesnt stop crime, drunks on a weekend bender dont give a thought about anything let alone "ohhh I'm on camera, better not do anything naughty!"

    If you are of the nature to take the risk to commit crime or violence then there is little you can do to stop these people.

    Watched a show about CCTV in Kings Lynn the other night. KL was one of the first towns in the UK to install substantial CCTV and now has one of the most comprehensive networks.

    Seeing all the crime they were following and having to deal with just proved its a 100% failiure in terms of reducing or stopping crime. It might help with the resulting 'clean up' but thats little comfort to the victims in most cases.

  5. The Original Ash

    Why IDing from CCTV is very difficult

    Page 13 has conclusion / recommendations.

    TL;DR: Digital CCTV image quality is not sufficient to identify people in the vast majority of cases.

    1. Ted Bovis
      Jobs Horns


      Why, I saw it on CSI just last night. They use some computers and things and solved a big crime in the space of an hour. Can't we get that technology in return for Gary McKinnon?

  6. irish donkey

    I sense an outsourcing opportunity

    Or maybe a game show.

    CCTV does noting to stop 'crime against the person' but its excellent opportunity to tell people we are looking out for you. When they clearly aren't.

    When are we going to get a policeman walking along the street?

    Never unless you live in a nice rich area.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    to be fair to the government...

    (much as i hate to)

    just because cameras dont help solve crimes, doesnt mean they dont help prevent crimes. its very hard to find evidence of a crime not being commited. My house has never been broken in to, does that mean i shouldnt have locks on the doors, and a highly visible alarm system?

    that said, the number of cctv cameras is clearly getting utterly ridiculous these days.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Um, it's easy actually.

      >"just because cameras dont help solve crimes, doesnt mean they dont help prevent crimes. its very hard to find evidence of a crime not being commited."

      No it isn't, it's simple. Take two very similar areas with similar demographic profiles and crime rates. Install cameras in one and not the other. See what happens to the crime rates. If one of them falls, that's evidence of crimes not being committed.

      See, thing is, you don't need to show /which particular/ crime was not committed; just that some - any - that would otherwise have been, were not. Or, as the case may be, that there is no particular subsequent difference between the two crime rates.

      As has been mentioned elsewhere, the one thing they *do* do is help solve crimes after the fact - although as also mentioned elsewhere, that's little consolation to the victims, it isn't prevention, and it takes a thousand cameras for every one crime that is thereby solved.

  8. Hermes Conran

    Anti social behaviour

    Vandels tend to aviod places with cameras which is why crimes art solved, they're avoided. For every person decrying their loss of privicy there are more asking the council to put them up to scare off the barbarian hordes. The problem with them of course is most of the time there's no one watching.....

    1. Tom Chiverton 1

      crimes art solved, they're avoided

      "crimes art solved, they're avoided"

      No they're not, they're displaced to other places. This is not a good thing.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        That is why ASBOs don't work, they just move problems around.

        Now if an ASBO wasn't a certificate, but a pair of concrete wellingtons...

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The regulator that wasn't.

    He's not there to regulate CCTV. He's to market it by digging up cases where it can be shown to have had at least a passing use. 90% of those "successes" will have been "succeeded in fining evildoer for littering" or "succeeded in fining evildoer for walking the dog without regulation leash". That's not "regulating" by any stretch of my imagination, but hey, nuspeak is all the nulabour rage these days.

    Oh, and notice that "central storage for digital footage"? Spot another database. Splendid opportunity for some solid face recognition research work. "Enrolling" was never easier. You'll be on that database, too.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Big Brother

      "central store for digital footage"

      The "central store for digital footage" was what leapt out at me, too.

      Sounds like the government haven't given up their pathological obsession with ever more centralisation. No doubt they will want to tie it in to all the other databases and stuff they want data sharing for.

  10. John 4

    This is a title

    "just because cameras dont help solve crimes, doesnt mean they dont help prevent crimes."

    The evidence is that all CCTV does is moves the crimes to places without it. For example the student areas in manchester are covered in cameras but all this causes is the surrounding areas to get all the crime, hardly fair.

    And no, the solution isn't more CCTV.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    One nation, under CCTV


  12. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    "central store for digital footage"

    Perhaps they should just send it through the intertubes and put in arequest to GCHQ whenever they need it.

    I think the icon says it all.

    Did they know that the FBI reckons facial recognition against large databases (which presumably is what these twits have in mind) is a bust, given they've been trying to make it work since 1963 (according to El Reg's coverage).

    *If* you're going to have someone co-ordinate this then having them set system quality standards and data transfer standards *are* reasonable objectives. These things might make such system useful to real police investigating real crime. Issuing a fact sheet so merchants know what to buy would be a good idea to avoid the "case dropped because of poor ID" complaint from the CPS

    This central store notion is just more of the NuLabour "we know your going to be guilty of *something* eventually. Why don't we just start the record taking now" view.

    No Mr Johnson. Depite the efforts of your department's fanatical members of staff we have not quite ended the presumption of innocence.

  13. Jacqui Smith's DVD Collection!

    creation of a central store for digital footage!

    "creation of a central store for digital footage" errr, really, what's that for? Right lads lets get the lasso's out!

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    CCTV doesn't solve crimes

    ...and it never will when the police can't be bothered to look at it

    I was assaulted outside one of my company's offices in direct sight of the CCTV cameras. I told security to put the tape aside and then contacted the police and reported the incident including the name, address and phone number of the person who had the tape.

    3 months later I received a letter from the police to say they can't take it any further as they were unable to find any CCTV records - I've watched the tape myself and security was never contacted or asked for the tape.

    I didn't bother responding to the letter as they obviously couldn't give a shit - Just what I've come to expect from the Police in Bristol.

    In relation to the story - If it's proven to be useless, scrap it. Why pay to maintain these systems if they provide no ebnefit?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    AC because of the job

    This type of article is easy to jump on as an example of the failure of CCTV. In my job I have successfully convicted many people on the basis of CCTV. Typically CCTV is supporting evidence and not always the whole case.

    Also as others have stated, it often stops crimes being committed in the first place.

  16. adnim

    Budget re-allocation required

    "...Today's news however seemingly indicates officals[sic] believe police are not making best use of surveillance cameras, which account for three-quarters of the Home Office crime prevention budget."

    That 75% of crime prevention budget spent on cameras would be better spent on a system which not only detects crime as it happens, but also makes the public feel safer, actually deters crime, even drunken criminal behavior and can actually apprehend miscreants in real time.

    Such a system does not exist? Well no, not anymore but it did once. They were called policemen, affectionately known as bobbies, they used to actually walk the streets and got to know their beat and the people in their area pretty well. A honest bobby, yes they do exist, interacting with the public and allowed to use his/her own discretion based on local knowledge garners far more respect than an inanimate spy on a pole.

  17. Scott 19


    Get the crim's to fill out a form before they commit a crime that way they can be pointe din the right direction and i think generally they are not used becasue the picture quality is so s*it.

    I was attacked by two blokes infront of CCTV cameras reported it and never heard anything back,"yes thats me on the floor officer being kicked by them two blokes, whats that they didn't look up sorry next time i'll try harder".

  18. Shadowfirebird

    There Is No Title

    Good to know that most CCTV footage is useless / unused.

    However I still find the things the hallmark of some sort of fascist state: the implication is that we're all criminals and need to be watched so we can be caught out.

    The problem is not the cameras themselves, it's the lack of safeguards, and the fact that as soon as we start photographing things, it would appear that Mr Plod thinks we are a terrorist. It's unbalanced -- all the power is in the hands of the state.

    My suggestion: all CCTV camera footage should be declared CC licenced. Anyone can view it at any time. Pass a law saying that photography in a public place is a basic right of expression. (Yes, I know it's not illegal now.)

    That way if the someone wants to use footage of me for a purpose that I don't approve of (say, attempting to incriminate me), at least I get to see the footage (all of it, not just the bits that make out I did something wrong), and maybe take some of my own.

  19. Paul Charters

    This just means more hassle...

    Firstly, 'CCTV doesnt stop crime, drunks on a weekend bender dont give a thought about anything let alone "ohhh I'm on camera, better not do anything naughty!"'. Stop coming down on drunk people - you CAN be drunk and NOT a violent criminal, public nuisance or cost to the public! Alcohol != violence. People = violence.

    Secondly, all that will happen is that the police will start handing out auto-tickets to anyone and everyone who happens to have a slip of paper fall from their pocket, or if they scrape mud off their shoes in a non 'socially-friendly' way. This will put their figures up, bring in more 'income' and just p*ss off the public even more.

  20. David 105
    Big Brother

    Typical New Labour

    Our policy isn't working, lets appoint a Tsar/regulator/Quango to shamelessly market the rare times it does work so we can ignore the elephant in the room, that we really dont know what we're doing and refuse to listen to viewpoints that are different to ours.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    The regulator that wasn't. 2.

    Oh, and notice that "central storage for digital footage"? Spot another database. Splendid opportunity for some solid face recognition research work. "Enrolling" was never easier. You'll be on that database, too.

    Add the gait database they're currently working on in Southampton to that...

  22. Anonymous Coward

    Image obfuscation

    I saw a device in "Wired" magazine where a chap was wearing hat fitted with small IR bulbs, which rendered the camera unable to record an image of the wearer. Now, I accept that use of that device would uniquely identify him (i.e. as "the weird looking one on camera 4, sir"), but how else could you obfuscate an image of yourself without it being totally obvious to the CCTV operator?

    No, I don't have anything to hide, but that isn't the point.

  23. Mountford D

    Watching too many doors

    Excellent opportunity for a job-creation scheme. Get more cameras installed I say.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Have nothing to do with crime, and never were intended to...

    I live in a small Scottish town - little more than a village. A decade or do ago, with absolutely no public consultation, the local council erected about half a dozen CCTV cameras - total overkill. The 'cheapest tender' contract - in true local government style - produced a huge bill for the taxpayer. The cowboy firm who installed them vanished soon afterward leaving eyesore equipment that looks as though it was bought at a surplus sale.

    The effect on real crime has been zero. There's no sign that anyone even monitors the devices - it's impossible to get a straight answer on whether or not they even work. If there's any crime or vandalism it's almost a waste of time ringing the police, who these days are more part of the problem rather than part of the answer. Your chances of seeing any CCTV footage are zero - the cameras are always off, unmonitored or mysteriously 'pointed the other way - sorry sir'. Public oversight and accountability for those cameras is zero.

    The whole project was - of course - just another earner for the brethren. The only tangible result is that people living in the vicinity of the cameras feel impelled to take more care closing their bedroom curtains.

  25. Anonymous Coward

    I hate to point out the obvious

    but we had massive crime issues in London in the 1800s with knives guns what-have-you being used and then some bright spark thought up the police and within a reasonable period of walking the beat crime started to evapourate.

    I blame the panda cars for all this. Police need to be on the street and approachable by the members of the public who can keep them informed of the dodgy stuff going on and then maybe we can start to bang people up. We rely too much on technology (yes DNA database) to solve crimes that we were able to do without not so many years ago. Overturn all these criminalised offences that use to be sumary, dump bu***t arrest targets and lets get this mess cleaned up.

    1. Jeff Deacon

      It was even earlier

      Before the Panda cars were the Velocette water cooled "motor bikes" with windshields as tall as the Bobby and his uniform helmet. And VHF radios meant that they didn't need the blue police boxes for the patrolling officer to ring back to the station to confirm that he had nothing to report.

  26. Anonymous Coward

    How much???/

    "which account for three-quarters of the Home Office crime prevention budget."

    How about, radical I know.

    Saving hundreds of thousands (if not millions) on the following.

    Reopening youth centres (and making them relevant) instead of bulldozing them and sticking slum-to-be housing on them.

    Improving steet lighting.

    Changing underpasses to above road crossings.

    Clearing litter and graffiti (yes this does have an effect)

    If you need a bigger budget, heres a radical idea.

    Change the fine (I belive £60) for drunk and disorderly to say, I don't £250 - £500. Then it may actually make a dent as opposed to be part of the night out.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Home Office tips off a War Crime suspect?

    Seems that YET AGAIN, someone tipped off the Israelis that a warrant for their arrest was waiting for them if they come to Britain.

    Seems to be the Home Office tipped off the Foreign Office and they in turn warned the minister not to come to the UK or risk facing prosecution for war crimes.

    "The UK is determined to do all it can to promote peace in the Middle East and to be a strategic partner of Israel..To do this, Israel's leaders need to be able to come to the UK for talks with the British government. We are looking urgently at the implications of this case."

    She is not a leader, she in OPPOSITION now, not part of the government, so the foreign office excuse is pitiful. It is a crime in the UK to tip off a criminal and thus help them avoid arrest. Yet the last time they did this, and this time that crime was simply not investigated.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    there is a use for these things...

    its called parking fines... I know, I've been hit by five from the same f*king camera, don't actually believe its caught any real criminals though...

    I'd hazard that this is the real reason why we're not seeing them removed... too financially lucrative to the local councils...

    me and my wife were thinking of staging a "mugging" in view of the camera while my car was parked there to see what would happen - don't mind paying the police fine for wasting time, but it would prove a point... :\

    (looking for a big brother icon)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Big Brother

      Big Brother Icon

      It's this one.

  29. Anonymous Coward


    Verbing nouns weirds language.

    If I could insert an image of the PHB from Dilbert here, I'd do so.

    1. Syd

      Remind me...

      ... never to let you make me a sandwich - you probably wouldn't BUTTER the bread, on the grounds that you'd be verbing a noun.

      Language evolves - get over it ;)

  30. Anonymous Coward

    A solution perhaps?

    The reason CCTV cameras are not solving crimes is that there are not enough people to analyse the data captured.

    There are about 8 million cameras in Britain.

    The government could employ one person to monitor each camera.

    if you also include the administrative infrastructure (Supervisors, Team Leaders, Area Managers, Divisional Managers, HR and IT staff and a director or two. that should create 10 million+ jobs.

    This will eliminate unemployment, and create a manpower deficit. This deficit can then be filled by non - violent offenders, bored youths, and anyone else who needs a job to support a habit, Thereby eliminating 95% of crime in this country.

  31. Anonymous Coward

    Looking at it wrong...

    As the article says:

    "In summer a Met report found that for every 1,000 cameras in London, only one crime is solved with the help of CCTV"

    To reduce crime we just need lots more cameras

  32. ShaggyDoggy


    Indeed, so to solve the, say, 100,000 crimes a year in the Met area we'll need, tap tap tap, 100,000,000 cameras in London. Hmmm.... time to buy shares in camera makers

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