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Society

ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Vidéosurveillance à l’outrance

by Peter Avis

Great Britain: Excessive video surveillance

Translated Wednesday 14 May 2008, by Jonathan Pierrel

Great Britain is the country where there are the most CCTV cameras in the world. But what is the use of those 4.2 million CCTV cameras that monitor sixty million citizens and decorate the buildings and the streets of the country? Not much, according to police inspector Mike Neville, in charge of the video surveillance branch of the metropolitan police in London.

In a report published last week, he claims that CCTV cameras helped to solve only 3% of the crimes in the capital and that they do not even have a preventive effect against crime. The system is “a fiasco”, says the inspector. Of course, he asks for more money to make it more efficient.

It is estimated that today, there is one CCTV camera for every fourteen inhabitants in Great Britain. If you go out of London, you will be monitored by three hundred CCTV cameras in a single day. In the last ten years, the Home Office has spent 78% of its anticrime budget on video surveillance, a tool becoming more and more sophisticated and more and more expensive.

This represents a good deal for the firms that provide the equipment for public authorities, companies and, more and more, for private individuals. In 2004, Michael Newton, from the society Anglo Design Holdings, pioneer of surveillance systems, was considered the most successful entrepreneur in the country, with a turnover of more than 30 million euro per year. Maplin, which sells cameras to the general public, announced an increased of 265% in its sales within the last five years: you would think it reassuring to be able to monitor your neighbours.

The ultra-monitored country of Great Britain worries human rights activists. Dough Jewell, from Liberty, claims that community police and measures such as improving street lighting could be more effective than the proliferation of CCTV cameras to fight crime. The controversial suggestion of Gordon Brown to prolong the maximum number of days in custody — to 42 from 28 — is another aspect of a society that concentrates on law and order … one which does not make citizens feel easier.


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