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8th June 2014 - Time For Big Brother to Retire - more...

Body cameras - The 5 Laws of FFUCams - more...

The Manufacture of ''Surveillance by Consent'' part 2 - more...

International Group condemns Facewatch - more...

Landmark CCTV case in Australia - more...

The Manufacture of ''Surveillance by Consent'' - more...

New CCTV Code Consultation - more...

Canadian Privacy Commissioner Hits Out At ANPR - more...

Government appoints CCTV yes man ... again - more...

Open letter to UK Surveillance Regulators - more...

Where to mate? 1984 please - more...

Britain under attack from 'talking' CCTV cameras - more...

Internet Eyes and media politics - more...

Back to the Future - UK CCTV debate stuck in time loop - more...

Royston's ANPR ''Ring of Steel'' - more...

Surveillance Camera Code Con - more...

No CCTV's Freedoms Bill submission - more...

CCTV / ANPR and the Manufacture of Consent - more...

Face Covering: Guest Article - more...

Mr Jolly at Parliamentary Committee - more...

Protection of whose Freedoms Bill? - more...

Exposing Naked Scanners - more...

Bad Boy of the Week - more...

BrumiLeaks, CCTV and democracy - more...

The true cost of CCTV? - more...

ICO's Surveillance Society follow up report - more...

CCTV citizen spy game launches - more...

Freedom not Fear demo in Germany - more...

Speed Cameras, ANPR and Project Columbus - more...

It's not as simple as CCTV cameras or crime - more...

Fox to review Birmingham CCTV chicken coop - more...

Rubbish CCTV - more...

CCTV in tower blocks - more...

Have your say on naked scanners - more...

The Surveillance State will not be beaten at the ballot box - more...

Pre-election warning - more...

CCTV election plege - more...

CCTV Robo-wardens - more...

Naked scanners update - more...

CCTV drones - more...

Naked scanners, naked CCTV and barefaced lies - more...

No CCTV on Red Ice Radio - more...

Scots fast becoming most surveilled in the UK - more...

Government appoints CCTV yes man - more...

BBC runs prime-time advert for CCTV game - more...

CCTV in Scotland: Broken Record - more...

Watch No CCTV's presentation - more...

ICO complaint seeks to halt CCTV game - more...

ANPR - policing by consent? - more...

Intenet Eyes - more...

Project Javelin - more...

Hounslow's ''Promise 10'' - more...

Silly Season, Schools and CCTV - more...

BBC breaches charter - more...

CCTV makes crime go up! - more...

CCTV Agenda creeps forward - more...

ANPR - the expanding network of checkpoints - more...

Proposed bill - CCTV expansion in disguise - more...

Students fight school CCTV - more...

Police's surrealist CCTV poster - more...

Victory in police surveillance case - more...

Study confirms ineffectiveness of CCTV - more...

Google Street Update - more...

Anti-CCTV advertising campaign - more...

Surveillance related consultations - more...

Councils misuse of surveillance - more...

Pub Landlord's CCTV victory - more...

Google takes curtain twitching to a new level - more...

Police admit storing images - more...

Back door CCTV expansion - more...

CCTV in pubs - more...

Modern Liberty Convention - more...

Surveillance report slams CCTV - more...

CCTV case at High Court - more...

Forest Fields Folks Against CCTV - more...

Cowley Road CCTV switched on - more...

Play the CCTV Treasure Hunt - more...

CCTV spies on diners - more...

2009: will decision makers heed CCTV warnings - more...

Beat the recession - cut CCTV - more...

London: In the Kingdom of Big Brother - more...

Update: CCTV sanity in Devon - more...

UK and Iran agree on CCTV and Human Rights - more...

Senior police officer calls for CCTV debate - more...

DPP slams surveillance state - more...

Body cams - more...

Freedom Not Fear - more...

CCTV in schools update - more...

Guilty...until we get the CCTV clock fixed - more...

NO CCTV in L'Express - more...

NO-CCTV finds the plot - more...

CameraWatch call for ''upgrades'' - more...

Blackpool CCTV review - more...

More evidence against CCTV - more...

CCTV industry calls for more cameras - more...

Security expert's CCTV warning - more...

Brown sexes up CCTV - more...

David Davis resigns - more...

China's CCTV laboratory - more...

Halt CCTV expansion - more...

UK surveillance sharing - more...

Cowley Road CCTV delays - more...

National cctv strategy starts to bite - more...

cctv in schools - more...

Police admit crime falling - so why install CCTV? - more...

CCTV sanity in Devon! - more...

cctv is a waste of money - more...

No cctv at oxford radical forum - more...

Back to the Future - UK CCTV debate stuck in time loop - 11/7/2011

Are politicians using a time machine to steal CCTV debates from the past?
delorean time machine
Images by Shane's Stuff
/ VERY URGENT Photography

Imagine if you had a time machine and you could travel back to the UK in the 1990s. Back then there was a banking crisis [1], a Conservative government and CCTV cameras were being put up all over the UK. So what's changed over the last 20 years?

With regards to political debate and public awareness of the issues surrounding surveillance cameras it seems very little. Come with us now on a journey of discovery as we leap backwards and forwards in time to present the Then and the Now of CCTV in the UK.

A Code of Practice for CCTV - NOW

One of the "new" ideas touted by the government in 2011 is a Code of Practice for surveillance cameras. On 27th June a Written Answer from the Home Office was published in response to a question about the government’s policy on CCTV [2]:

Julie Hilling: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what her policy is on the use of CCTV cameras.

James Brokenshire (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Home Office): The Government recognises the importance of CCTV in preventing and detecting crime and supports its use by communities. The Government also acknowledges that continued use of CCTV requires the support of the public and public confidence that systems are being used appropriately.

Accordingly, we intend to introduce a Code of Practice for Surveillance Cameras and appoint a Surveillance Camera Commissioner.

[CCTV Cameras, Home Department, Written answers and statements, 27 June 2011 - Hansard source (Citation: HC Deb, 27 June 2011, c576W)]

A Code of Practice for CCTV - THEN

Meanwhile back in July 1994 during a debate on 'Crime Prevention (New Technology)' [3], Home Secretary Michael Howard was asked whether the government of the day agreed with the need for a CCTV Code of Practice:

Mr. Bennett: Although video cameras in shopping areas and housing estates can be a useful way to deter crime and catching criminals, will the Minister accept that there is now a need for a code of practice governing who should have access to the cameras and the purposes to which they can put the information gained from them?

Mr. Howard: That matter is currently under consideration by the Association of Chief Police Officers, and I want to await the results of its deliberations before deciding whether any action needs to be taken. I am in no doubt at all of the contribution that CCTV can make to the fight against crime.

['Crime Prevention (New Technology)' - HC Deb 07 July 1994 vol 246 cc440-1]

Did Mr Bennet and Mr Howard travel from 1994 back to the future and steal the idea from 2011? Or did the government of 2011 just rehash an old idea? It is worth noting that the 1994 guidance document 'CCTV Closed Circuit Television: Looking out for you' [4] was put together after deliberations from the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and in the 2011 Protection of Freedoms Bill the first organisation that the Secretary of State must consult in preparing a CCTV Code is ACPO. It is also worth noting that MPs past and present seem to have no doubt in CCTV's crime-fighting credentials despite all evidence being to the contrary (see 'CCTV Research Then/Now' below).

"We need more CCTV" - NOW

Also on the 27th June during Home Department questions [5] Philip Davies MP asked Home Office Minister Brokenshire if it was time for more cameras not less:

Philip Davies: Does the Minister accept that CCTV evidence was crucial in eventually bringing Levi Bellfield to justice for the murder of Milly Dowler, and is that not a timely reminder that we should be making it easier, not harder, for the police to use CCTV, and that we need more CCTV, not less?

James Brokenshire (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Home Office): I certainly recognise the value of CCTV, but we must be careful to ensure that there is no loss of trust and confidence in its use among communities throughout the country. We have learned what can happen in such circumstances from the experience in Birmingham, and in light of that, Sara Thornton, chief constable of Thames Valley Police, produced a report that underlined that accountability, consultation and transparency must be core considerations. That is precisely what we are reflecting in our approach.

[CCTV Cameras, Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department, House of Commons debate, 27 June 2011 - Hansard source (Citation: HC Deb, 27 June 2011, c594)]

"We need more CCTV" / Down with Civil Liberties - THEN

Back in April 1994 during a debate on 'Closed Circuit Television' [6] it was Malcolm Moss MP who asked the Home Secretary if it was not the case that people want more cameras not less:

Mr. Moss: Can my right hon. and learned Friend confirm that he will not be distracted by civil liberties objections to the installation of closed-circuit television, such as that proposed in the towns of Wisbech and March in my constituency? Is it not the case that people want more cameras and less crime, not the other way around?

Mr. Howard: I entirely agree with my hon. Friend and I can give him the confirmation for which he asks. I believe that closed-circuit television has an important part to play in both crime prevention and crime detection.

[Closed Circuit Television - HC Deb 21 April 1994 vol 241 c1033]

"We need more CCTV" / Down with Civil Liberties - THEN AGAIN

Clearly Mr Moss was very much on script when he raised the above question - a script apparently stolen from 2011 using a parliamentary time-machine no doubt at the tax-payers expense! At least they got to recycle the script again - in July 1994 during the 'Crime Prevention (New Technology)' debate when Simon Coombs MP fired almost exactly the same question to the Home Secretary:

Mr. Coombs: Will my right hon. and learned Friend confirm that closed circuit television surveillance schemes, many of which have been funded by the urban fund and by the safer cities campaign, have significantly helped to reduce crime in the precincts and car parks of our inner cities and towns? Does he agree that people want more cameras and less crime—not the other way round, as suggested by some civil liberties groups?

Mr. Howard: I entirely agree. My hon. Friend the Minister of State launched a new CCTV scheme in the centre of Liverpool just a couple of days ago. I think that CCTV can make a significant contribution to the fight against crime. We certainly want to encourage its spread.

[Crime Prevention (New Technology) - HC Deb 07 July 1994 vol 246 cc440-1]

"We need more CCTV" / Down with Civil Liberties variants - NOW

Not to be outdone, the calls for more CCTV and less whingeing about civil liberties is a common theme used by MPs in the twenty first century. In a September 2010 debate on 'Crime and Policing' [7], former Home Secretary Alan Johnson ripped apart civil liberties concerns with regards CCTV by quoting another MP in a local paper saying that CCTV might have prevented an attack:

Alan Johnson: I support CCTV and reject the argument that it offends civil liberties. Indeed, it protects the civil liberties of our citizens-and, as we have seen recently, those of the occasional cat dropped in a wheelie bin. I agree with the Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice, Nick Herbert, who, in 2007, wrote this-it is excellent-in his local newspaper:

"I had been shown a community centre on a council estate that had been burned down in an arson attack... If only there had been CCTV, the attack might have been prevented or the perpetrator caught.... to those who claim that this all heralds a Big Brother society, I say, why should innocent people worry that someone is watching out for their safety?"

The right hon. Gentleman spoke for Britain then. The vast majority of the population would support what he said, although sadly it is not the view of the pseudo-libertarian Government of whom he is now a member.

[Crime and Policing, House of Commons debate, 8 September 2010]

In the same September 2010 debate Siobhain McDonagh MP claimed that all 65,390 [8] of her constituents in Mitcham/Morden, South London want more CCTV:

Siobhain McDonagh:
[...]
I have never met a constituent who has told me that the police have reduced our civil rights; my constituents want to see more effective ways of dealing with antisocial behaviour. I have never met a constituent who wanted to get rid of CCTV; all my constituents want more, because it makes them feel safe and confident.

[Crime and Policing, House of Commons debate, 8 September 2010]

It seems highly unlikely that Ms McDonagh actually spoke to all 65,390 of her constituents individually and far more likely that she has simply used the implied consent model to magically convert silence into consent.

Call for less CCTV red tape - NOW

Another recurring theme in the 27th June Home Department questions debate was the amount of red tape allegedly slowing down (!) the installation of CCTV cameras. John Woodcock MP, Wayne David MP and Peter Bone MP all called on the Home Office to make it easier to install cameras:

John Woodcock: May I respectfully suggest that the Minister should [...] inform the House why 11 pieces of red tape have to be gone through before anyone can even consider installing fresh ones?

James Brokenshire (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Home Office): As I have said, I welcome the use of CCTV. It can be important in preventing and detecting crime, and I am certainly willing to discuss the issue further outside the Chamber and to talk about the impact CCTV is clearly making in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency. I would also say to him, however, that when his party was in government it published a CCTV strategy that included 44 separate recommendations—including that a body with responsibility for the governance of the use of CCTV in this country should be established—so quite a lot of regulation was put in place by his own Government.

Wayne David: I hear what the Minister says about CCTV, but why does he not put his rhetoric into practice by making it simpler for communities and councils to have CCTV?

[…]

Peter Bone: I thought it was a core principle of this Government that we were going to do away with unnecessary red tape, but it appears that we are creating more. What regulations are we doing away with in bringing this one in?

[CCTV Cameras, Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department, House of Commons debate, 27 June 2011 - Hansard source (Citation: HC Deb, 27 June 2011, c594)]

Calls for less CCTV red tape - THEN

Back in April 1994 during a 'Closed Circuit Television' debate it was David Trimble MP who complained about delays to the roll-out of surveillance cameras – then blamed on red tape in the name of research:

Mr. Trimble: Surely it has been established clearly that the installation of closed-circuit televisions in town centres and commercial areas can contribute powerfully to deterring crime and to apprehending criminals. We do not need further studies and experiments. Should the Government not now prepare to help businesses and local authorities nationwide to use closed-circuit televisions?

Mr. Howard: There is no question of any research being intended to hold up the installation of closed-circuit television—quite the contrary. We are doing everything we can to encourage local authorities, businesses and others to help with the installation of closed circuit television. We shall shortly publish a code of practice that will ensure that such television is sited as effectively as possible. I entirely agree with the thrust of the hon. Gentleman's question.

[Closed Circuit Television - HC Deb 21 April 1994 vol 241 c1033]

Here Michael Howard manages to throw in a mention of the CCTV Code of Practice that he stole from 2011 at the same time as agreeing with Mr Trimble's dislike of CCTV evaluations.

Back in the 1990s as the massive expansion of CCTV in the UK began there was little independent research into the effectiveness of cameras.

CCTV Research - THEN

In October 1994 Alun Michael MP received a Written Answer from the Home Office with regard to research into the use of CCTV [9]:

Mr. Michael: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will list the research being undertaken by or on behalf of his Department into the use of closed-circuit television, including the subject matter of such research; who is undertaking the work; and when a report on each study is due to be provided to his Department.

Mr. Maclean: The Home Office police research group is currently carrying out a study of closed-circuit television systems in town centres with the aim of identifying the characteristics of schemes which make an effective contribution to the control of crime and operational policing generally. A report will be available by Easter 1995.

[Closed-circuit Television - Written Answers — October 25, 1994 - HC Deb 25 October 1994 vol 248 c516W]

The research referred to above was 'CCTV in Town Centres: Three Case Studies' [10] by Ben Brown which was finally published in December 1995. This study was singled out by Clive Norris & Gary Armstrong in their 1999 book 'The Maximum Surveillance Society: The Rise of CCTV' [11], in which they point out: "This was not, it should be noted, a full-scale, independent or thorough evaluation". They go on to say:

Significantly, it was also to draw on the findings of research commissioned by the Home Office's Police Research Group, at a cost of £20,536 from Honess and Charman of Michael and Associates, into the effectiveness of CCTV in Birmingham City Centre. The findings of this study were not good news to those who believed CCTV to be the silver bullet of crime control. It found CCTV had little impact on the crimes that most concern the public. Robbery and theft from the person continued to rise and there was no significant change in the rates for wounding and assault (Brown 1995: 34–6). Moreover, there was evidence of ‘some displacement of offending into thefts from vehicles since the installation of the cameras’, and this was even more marked for robbery

[The Maximum Surveillance Society: The Rise of CCTV, Chapter 4]

Sexing up CCTV research – THEN

Norris and Armstrong explain how the 1995 Home Office press release [12] launching the study made no mention of any negative findings. Instead it trumpeted:

Closed circuit television is cracking crime up and down the country, a Home Office report shows today. The report examines how the police are using CCTV to beat crime and disorder in Newcastle, Birmingham and King's Lynn town centres. It reveals:

- Burglaries down by 56% and vandalism down by 34 percent in Central Newcastle
[…]
- 94 percent public support for CCTV systems
- and little displacement of crime and in Newcastle positive effects of areas neighbouring CCTV zones.

[CCTV proves a winner in cracking crime – Home Office Press Release 1995]

Sexing up CCTV research – NOW

In June 2008 then Prime Minister Gordon Brown gave a speech to the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) on 'Security and Liberty' [13] in which he recycled the 1995 press release to promote CCTV:

In central Newcastle, after CCTV was installed, burglaries fell by 56 per cent, criminal damage by 34 per cent, and theft by 11 per cent.

[Security and Liberty – Gordon Brown speech IPPR 2008]

What both Gordon Brown in 2008 and Ben Brown in 1995 failed to mention was that overall CCTV had an "undesirable effect" in Newcastle, as described in Home Office Study 252 [14] in 2002, which showed that total crime fell by 21.6% in the area with cameras but by 29.7% in the area where there were no cameras.

Sexing up CCTV research – THEN

Back in 1995 the press release for the 'CCTV in Town Centres: Three Case Studies' report included a gushing pro CCTV quote from Home Office Minister David McLean:

CCTV is now one of the best crime-cracking tools the police have. They are using it to catch thieves, thugs and muggers, to prevent crime and focus police resources more effectively. That is why we launched a competition for £15 million of funding in November. The latest figures show the largest ever fall in recorded crime over a two-year period. I am convinced that CCTV has a role in helping police turn the tables against the criminals. This report should encourage everyone thinking of putting forward private funding or proposal to us.

[CCTV proves a winner in cracking crime – Home Office Press Release 1995]

Norris and Armstrong suggest why it is that the study was not published until 28th December 1995 despite it being dated November 1995 and originally due to be published much earlier in the year, they wrote:

It seems probable that, despite the Minister's gloss, publication was timed so that it was distanced from the Home Secretary's announcement in November of the decision to commit another £15 million of public money on expanding CCTV. And, of course, launching a report in the week between Christmas and New Year is certainly one way of ensuring little public or political reaction.

[The Maximum Surveillance Society: The Rise of CCTV, Chapter 4]

Sexing up CCTV research – NOW

A similar delay in publication seems to have occurred with the most recent and comprehensive evaluation of CCTV – the Campbell Collaboration Study [15] of 2008 which was commissioned by the Home Office. In 2008 there were two parliamentary inquiries into surveillance in the UK: the Home Affairs Committee's 'A Surveillance Society?' [16] which reported its findings in May 2008 and the Constitution Committee's 'Surveillance: Citizens and the State' [17] which reported in February 2009. It was not until March 2009, after both inquiries were fully concluded, that then Home Office Minister Vernon Coaker announced that the Campbell Collaboration Study had been published.

Coaker told MPs in a Westminster Hall debate on 'A Surveillance Society' [18] that:

[...] the Campbell Collaboration has produced a report on research conducted by the National Police Improvement Agency on the effect of closed circuit television on crime. It was published on 2 December 2008, and it may be of interest to the House. I shall read the text of the review:

"Results of this review indicate that CCTV"—

this shows that I am not being biased; I could have missed out this word, but I shall not—

"has a modest but significant desirable effect on crime, is most effective in reducing crime in car parks, is most effective when targeted at vehicle crimes (largely a function of the successful car park schemes), and is more effective in reducing crime in the United Kingdom than in other countries."

[A Surveillance Society? - Westminster Hall debate, 19 March 2009]

Coaker here quoted from the synopsis of the report which by including results from car parks states that CCTV has a modest effect on crime. Perhaps more relevant to most people's expectations of CCTV is the following in the 'Reviewers’ conclusions' section:

[...] the evaluations of CCTV schemes in city and town centers and public housing [...] as well as those focused on public transport, did not have a significant effect on crime.

[Effects of Closed Circuit Television Surveillance on Crime, Campbell Collaboration, 2008, p19]

Reluctance to collect crime data – THEN

Not only have politicians shied away from inconvenient evidence relating to CCTV, often they have just decided not to collect the data at all - as the answer to a question from Bob Dunn MP in December 1993 [19] demonstrates:

Mr. Dunn: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) if he will publish crime figures for those local authorities which have taken steps to install security cameras for the 12 months prior to and after installation;

(2) which local authorities have, or are considering the installation of, security cameras in their town centres, in association with the police.

Mr. Charles Wardle: This information is not available.

[Security Cameras - HC Deb 06 December 1993 vol 234 c7W 7W]

Reluctance to collect crime data – NOW

This same reluctance is still evident in 2011. In East Oxford in 2009 three wireless CCTV cameras were installed along the Cowley Road. After a campaign against the cameras the council / police agreed to a two year trial to evaluate their effectiveness. The trial was due to complete in January 2011, but when Oxford City Council was contacted for results [20] they first denied that there ever was a trial and then admitted that the trial had been cancelled at a closed and unminuted meeting of the Oxford Safer Communities Partnership in June 2009.

When a local paper in Oxford contacted the police for crime figures in May [21] they were told that the crime figures were too expensive to find, the paper reported that:

Police who battled for years to get CCTV in Oxford’s Cowley Road have refused to say whether the cameras have helped cut crime in the street.

[CCTV crime figure ‘too expensive to find’ - Oxford Mail 5th May 2011]

A subsequent Oxford Mail article last week [22] reported that a senior police office had told the newspaper that the cameras were causing displacement of drug dealing into side streets rather than preventing or solving crime, the article states:

East Oxford Insp Marc Tarbit said the three CCTV cameras had not had a noticeable impact on the level of drug-dealing in the area but said officers were tackling the issue.

[CCTV 'pushing drug dealing off Cowley Road but into side streets' – Oxford Mail 4th July 2011]

Public awareness – NOW

Is it any wonder that given all of the double dealing and repetitive nature of political discourse with regard to surveillance cameras that much of the public look elsewhere for proof of CCTV's effectiveness? Following the cancellation of the Oxford trial and the police refusal to release crime data a letter appeared in the Oxford Mail on 17th May entitled 'CCTV is a deterrent' [23], the letter stated:

If proof is needed of the value of cameras the evidence is before your very eyes – just watch TV.

[CCTV is a deterrent - Oxford Mail letters 17th May 2011]

Conclusions

So what can be learnt from the above comparison of THEN and NOW with relation to surveillance cameras? Firstly it shows that despite 20 years of shenanigans politicians have not yet won the debate over CCTV – their constant need to claim that everyone loves CCTV reveals their ongoing insecurity and that there is still a battle to be won. It also shows that only a well informed public can actually fight the spread of the surveillance state - it is up to those of us that can see beyond the political spin to keep the state at bay. If we do nothing now we can't guarantee that a DeLorian time machine [24] will be invented any time soon that let's us travel back to the future to remove the surveillance state that the politicians are busily creating around us.

Endnotes:


Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 11/7/2011

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