It has recently been reported that Fife has the 2nd highest number of CCTV cameras out of all the local authorities in the UK, after the group Big Brother Watch conducted a series of Freedom of Information requests.
The group had a 98.6% respond rate from the UK local authorities, and discovered that over £515 million has been spent on CCTV systems throughout the UK, between 2007 – 2011.
The highest spender of CCTV cameras was Birmingham, with 636 cameras, at a cost of £14,293,060.00. Fife doesn’t appear in the list of highest spenders, but the City of Edinburgh appeared fourth in the list, with 232 cameras, at a cost of £6,211,425.30. Birmingham averages out as 1 camera per 1,600 people.
The highest number of CCTV cameras, put Leicester in 1st place with 2,083 CCTV cameras, Fife takes second place with 1,420 cameras in place. The report states that Fife has more CCTV cameras than Liverpool, Manchester, and Leeds combined.
Although we are the second most viewed and under surveillance population in the UK, Fife Council appears to have got a really good deal for all 1,420 CCTV cameras. Whilst it cost Edinburgh Council over £6 million for 232 cameras, Fife Council managed to get all 1,420 CCTV cameras at a fraction of the cost, of only £948,347 and 12p.
The Big Brother Watch group released the report to highlight flaws in the current legislation and to try and focus scrutiny of CCTV camera usage in certain areas, including:
- CCTV has been viewed by those controlling expenditure as a cheap alternative to conventional policing, with no demonstrable equivalent success in reducing crime.
- The efficiency of CCTV varies hugely across the country, with cameras regularly not working or turned off, footage being deleted before it can be used and pictures of insufficient quality for court purposes.
- Local authorities have spent an unprecedented amount of money to make the United Kingdom the most watched nation of people anywhere in the world. That amount of spending on CCTV is steadily increasing, with funds being diverted from conventional policing budgets to pay for the new technology.
- CCTV serves as a costly placebo for many local authorities designed to appease neighbourhoods suffering from anti-social behaviour problems.
- As the number of CCTV cameras increases, so does the potential number of people being watched and the number of council officers watching – with worrying implications for personal privacy and data security.
- The lack of enforceable regulation means that more intrusive use of CCTV – for example, in public toilets, schools or with audio recording capability – can only be challenged in the courts by way of judicial review.
We have previously made our own FOI request to Fife Constabulary regarding the usage of CCTV systems in the Lochgelly area regarding crime figures for 2009 and the role CCTV played in crime prevention;
Between 1 January 2009 and 31 December 2009, 645 crimes were recorded as having been committed in the Lochgelly area. Of these crimes, 312 were detected.
It is not possible to identify those crimes where CCTV played a part in their detection without reviewing each one. As this information is not readily accessible, easily identifiable or held in a retrievable format and the research required to look into this further would impact significantly on staff time and resources, Therefore, under the terms of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002, Section 12 Excessive cost of compliance applies.
It should be noted that the crimes detailed above are recorded as having been committed in the overall locality area of Lochgelly and are not restricted to those areas covered by CCTV.
In that last year, 63 incidents were captured on CCTV and Officers requested 73 reviews of historical CCTV footage.
The cost of maintaining the CCTV system in Lochgelly in the last financial year was £3,320.
Any bold above is our emphasis, you can view the full reply at: What Do They Know
What is clear from the reply above is that out of 645 crimes recorded, only 63 incidents were captured on CCTV, and officers only asked to review CCTV footage 73 times, which is significantly low and makes us question the validity and usefulness of having the CCTV system in place. The reply from Fife Constabulary shows (to us) that traditional policing methods are more effective than relying on CCTV systems.
In all honesty, we are surprised that Fife is the 2nd highest most under surveillance population in the UK. If we hadn’t seen the report and were asked which region do we think had the most CCTV systems in place, we would have assumed London, due to having the highest population in the UK, we would certainly not have chosen Fife or even expected Fife to be in the top ten of most CCTV surveillance, never mind in the top 2.
To view the in-depth report produced by Big Brother Watch, which lists all the regions in the UK, expenditure costs and amount of CCTV cameras in place, please visit: http://www.bigbrotherwatch.org.uk/files/priceofprivacy/Price_of_privacy_2012.pdf#.T0OlbfI8Cd4