The first ever city centre CCTV system was installed in the UK in 1997; now CCTV is a highly sophisticated means of crime prevention and detection, present in nearly all major city centre centres. Kay burgess, of the British security industry association BSIA charts the progress of surveillance technology.
When CCTV was first introduced it had many sceptics but its remarkable success over the last decade has made it a fixture in town centres, shops, and businesses all over the UK. The first city centre CCTV scheme was fitted in king’s Lynn in 1987 and by 1994 some 220 city centre schemes were in place or planned. The rapid growth of CCTV over the first decade of its use culminated in 1997 with 150,00 to 200, 000 cameras installed in London alone and over 1 million installed in the UK as a whole. CCTV is now also used in places such as the health service and schools, preventing as well as solving crime.
The presence of CCTV in public places has developed with the help of government funding. The home office provided funding for town centre schemes in the region of 15 million pounds per year from 1994 – 1997. It made CCTV schemes more common than anywhere else in Western Europe and increased the publics’ acceptance of surveillance of cameras in public places.
Picture quality transmission and camera instillation has come on in leaps and bounds over the last decade. For example, fibre optic cable now provides by far the most reliable and high quality images ever available. Microwave links between camera monitoring centres mean video images can now be sent by air so that town centres need not be disrupted with cable instillation. The advent of digital technology is offering more opportunities, namely increasing the resolving power of cameras so that even greater detail can be recorded.
In the wake of all of these improvements a pilot CCTV scheme has recently been launched in the London borough of Newham and is capable of recognising the faces of known criminals and alerting a security officer to there presence. This system uses algorithms to map the dimensions of facial features into a face print, which is matched to images on the camera.
The scheme is a joint venture between Newham borough council and the metropolitan police it is the first such scheme to be operated in the UK. The system will operate in conjunction with 140 street cameras and 11 mobile cameras units already in existence in Newham and a new scheme will also expand surveillance. There will be 240 cameras in Newham by the end of next year.
The growth of CCTV in public places has responded to changing criminal trends. A survey carried out by the British retail consortium in 1997 analysed statistics from companies trading through 44500 outlets in the UK, and with a combined turnover of 90 billion. It reviled a worrying rise in robbery and violent crime. Robbery was up 42% and was costing the retailer £47 million. Incidence of violence against staff had risen 44%, with one member of shop staff being assaulted or threatened every minute of the day all crimes committed against retailers cost 1.3 billion pounds per annum. Thus it is not surprising that there has been an increased demand for effective security measures to reduce crime in city centres.
When considering security options the success of CCTV speaks for its self:
- In Birmingham the introduction of CCTV saw a 30% drop in burglaries, 64% drop in armed robbery 26% drop in shop lifting.
- In London there was a 30% decrease in crime when CCTV cameras were installed
- Airdrie saw crime cut by 21%31% with introduction of CCTV
- Schemes in Hexam, Newcastle upon thyme and Accrington have been credited with reducing crime between 17% and 20% in there first year of operation
Not all organisations can afford the latest CCTV technology, but plenty of high qualities, cost effective options are available to them. In the lowest price systems, however, standards of product, instillation or maintenance may have been compromised. A supplier committed to conforming to recognised standards, such as British standard ENISO9000 for quality management is there for recommended all British security industry association companies must conform to this and meet a Varity of other criteria, including satisfying the association that they operate in a professional and ethical manner.
However sophisticated CCTV technology becomes, it is crucial system are operated effectively if they are going to successfully to prevent crime. Managers installing CCTV systems must maintain cameras and video tapes efficiently if they want video footage to be of a high enough standard to help catch criminals. For example, if the videotapes used to record footage are of low quality then so is the whole system the video tapes need to be high quality reliable and consistent. Importantly they must also be stored and archived responsibly or evidence will be lost or damaged.
Even with the most spectacular technology, CCTV could not have developed this far if the public did not support its use. The face recognition CCTV system in Newham was set up following a public survey that shows overwhelming support for the initiative. Tolerance for crime is still lower than ever and this means that CCTV is now excepted as part of peoples of every day lives.