back to article Top cop brands CCTV a 'fiasco'

A senior Metropolitan police officer has described the UK's CCTV strategy as a "fiasco", saying billions had been spent with very little impact on either stopping crime or providing evidence. But don't count on the UK's flocks of cameras being taken down any time soon - the comments appear to be a thinly veiled plea for more …


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  1. Ben Mathews

    Bless 'um

    He said investigating officers don't like looking through CCTV images "because it's hard work".

    Poor police investigators - being made to work hard.

  2. Theresa Jayne Forster

    Its worse than that jim!!!!

    A neighbour of mine had installed CCTV watching over his car, some hoodliums put a tree log through the windscreen of next door's Camper van, This was caught on the CCTV,

    The police said they cannot accept it as evidence as there were no signs in the area stating that CCTV was in use, - Whats the point of having a camera when its not admisible as evidence because the homeowner hasnt put up signs saying "You may be recorded on CCTV"

    We are advised to get CCTV to protect our property but unless we put up a sign there is nothing they can do about it...

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    oh dear

    I am afriad this is not a call to rip the damn cameras out - but to make more effective use of these and even more cameras.

  4. Eponymous Cowherd
    Black Helicopters

    Fiasco after fiasco

    So CCTV doesn't work.

    The DNA database only solves one crime for ever 800 profiles collected.

    And *still* they press ahead with the useless ID card and NIR scheme.

    When will the idiots in charge realise that turning every one of us into a suspect is *not* the best way to garner public support and solve crimes.

  5. Eponymous Cowherd

    Re: Its worse than that jim!!!

    A colleague was hit from behind by an uninsured driver who gave false details, writing off his car. Sensibly he had written down the reg number.

    Police completely uninterested.

    No wonder they are losing (have already lost?) the public's trust.

  6. Andy Turner

    Hmmm.. AIUI.. only need the warning signs for commercial premises - for home use you do not. However, perhaps that's WRT being allowed to have them in the first place, not whether the images are admissible as evidence. Simply put up some signs after the event though, who's to know?

  7. Michael Compton

    Re: Theresa

    Well then tell them to put the sign up, if he can afford the kit i'm sure he can afford a sign.

    The sign is important for number for a number of reasons i'd think:

    1 (and the main one) The point is to deter crime not get ur vigilante horn on.

    2 People should know if there is a possibility of your friends camera recording them especially as when u point out it is recording activity not on your friends property.

    Though if deterence was the correct answer then I'm sure crime would have been vastly reduced along time ago but unfortuately it isn't.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Other Side

    A good friend of mine is an ordinary Police Officer and from what he said CCTV is a nightmare.

    Firstly if you can actually find the operator then even then you only have a small chance of finding somebody who can extract the images for you onto a disc and some systems even have no facility to do that.

    Secondly if you do get the footage you want each system will have a different way of packaging that footage from single executables with the footage embedded to just dumping the footage in a myriad of formats.

  9. Anonymous Coward

    Re: Its worse than that jim!!!

    I had my car broken into and the plods said they'd charge to have it fingerprinted.

  10. Hywel Thomas

    CCTV useless

    I had a bike nicked from a bike locker a s train station. I paid to park it there. There's a CCTV camera pointing at the locker. The locker belongs to either Railtrack or Connex (or whoever they are now). The locker was damaged.

    Nobody even bothered to look at the tape. I wasn't allowed to look at the tape.

    Now I wasn't entirely surprised. I don't really want my stolen bike to take priority over something more important (By which I mean a violent crime rather than some copper's coffee and custard slice).

    What I don't understand though is the point of the CCTV at all. Is there an environmental angle on this ? How much power are they consuming for no apparent reason ?

    I considered getting my replacement bike chipped. The guy in the bike shop told me not to bother. Even if a bike is recovered, the police don't bother checking them for frame numbers or RFID or whatever.

  11. Anonymous Coward

    Don't dress like a scumbag, it's illegal.

    "Plans to create a national CCTV database seems to be on hold because technology to carry out automatic searches is not up to the job. However, a database is in the works which uses tracking technology from the sports advertising industry. This looks for distinctive logos on clothing to find previous images of suspects where they may not have concealed their identities as effectively as when they actually committed the crime."

    Are you fucking kidding me? I'm on laundry day and I'm wearing a pair of tracksuit bottoms and a hoody with a brand logo on it and some scummer wearing the same kit breaks into a car, but has the hood up. I'm identifiable. I get nicked. Fuck right off.

  12. Nomen Publicus
    IT Angle

    Open Identification?

    Isn't it always the way? You give someone some technology and all you hear is, "We need a few billion more to make it work!".

    If it's too "difficult" to look at the video, why not just post it to YouTube and let the unwashed millions look at it for you? Offer a reward for every identification that leads to arrest and successful prosecution and that should solve the problem.

  13. Steve

    Most retarded idea ever.

    "However, a database is in the works which uses tracking technology from the sports advertising industry. This looks for distinctive logos on clothing to find previous images of suspects where they may not have concealed their identities as effectively as when they actually committed the crime."

    Congratulations you've found a way to identify whether they are Nike scum, Kappa scum, Addidas scum....

    These kids are not making their own logos, they are buying mas-fucking-marketed name branded clothing. Are they really going to go trawling through the thousands of pics that get pulled by the software because someone is wearing the same branded hoodie as some mugger?

    No, of course they are not, because they can't be fucked to look through the images they *already* have which is why they are trying to find a technological shortcut to avoid the real slog of detective work.

    Maybe it's about time we started demanding some qualifications before handing out the handcuffs and batons.

  14. Gilbert Wham

    Of course... can be completely foiled (CCTV, that is) by the employment of that fiendish cloaving device known as 'the hat'./..

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    >"..may not have concealed their identities as effectively as when they

    > actually committed the crime."

    ...or may be someone completely different who happens to be of the same build wearing the same tracksuit.

    Ah, well, locking up one ned is better than locking up no neds..

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    re: Of course...

    " can be completely foiled (CCTV, that is) by the employment of that fiendish cloaving device known as 'the hat'./.."

    soon to be made illegal....

  17. Anonymous Coward

    @Its worse than that jim!!!!

    Of course it could always be claimed that the miscreants also stole the warning signs...

  18. Luther Blissett

    Top cop is correct

    If the footage is of such poor quality as to be render identification of suspects in doubt (only one of several reasons against the admissibility of CCTV evidence), and needs to be "reinforced by written descriptions of suspects", what reason is there to think that a national CCTV database is going to be of any use (notwithstanding the reasons mentioned above). As IT experts we should all know that computers are quite happy to curve-fit random data into spurious regular relationships. Trough meet snout...

    Given the number of people in the UK who would like to point CCTV cameras onto their neighbours' (not allowed), it begs the question whether the unrelenting paranoidal legislative attack on personal liberties is really top-down, or in fact bottom-up.

    Bottoms up, then. And remember the stiff upper lip.

  19. Anonymous Coward

    Welcome to Stoneybridge

    Viido? Vi-day-oh shurely?

  20. Anonymous Coward

    A couple of thoughts

    1)"It's been an utter fiasco: only three per cent of crimes were solved by CCTV." Which is about 70% of the clear-up rate

    2) "...rather than a reversal of the UK's love affair with surveillance and reactive policing." Please note that this should read "...the UK ***GOVERNMENT'S*** love affair..."

    3) "...there was no point having a national DNA database if police still had to approach 43 different forces to access images of suspects,..." I quiet agree; scrap the National DNA database.

    4) "Sometimes when they put their [equipment] in operational practice, it's not as wonderful as they said it would be..." Hahahahahahahahahaha.... Welcome to the real world.

    5) ""Billions of pounds has been spent on kit, but no thought has gone into how the police are going to use the images and how they will be used in court." And in what way is this different in the amount of thought that is given to other police strategies?

    6) "The Information Commissioner has said it wants to see safeguards on who can access images, and it would have concerns if images of "individuals going about their daily lives was retained". I imagine that the ICO must be wetting their lacy panties then.

    The coat because the UK would be a safer place if some of these coppers actually put theirs on and went outside once in a while.

    AC because I may be gobby, but I ain't stupid.

  21. W

    These are my experiences of the last 5 years, tell me yours...

    Case 1/

    Car up my rear. We both pull over. I get out to exchange details. Car drives off. Police informed of reg no. Person at address where car is registered denies all knowledge. Police: "Sorry, there's nothing else we can do." I take the insurance hit.

    -CCTV? Dunno.

    -Database/Register any use? Used, but useless.

    -Police at the scene of the crime? No.

    Case 2/

    I can see a bunch of kids climbing onto a bin shed and entering the 1st floor window of a stairwell. Call local police station. No answer for 5 mins. Call 999. Deficiency in level of details taken. Call clearly not taken seriously. No police on the scene that evening. Not the first instance of apathy with something like this either.

    -CCTV? No. Direct eye witness (me).

    -Database/Register any use? No.

    -Police at the scene of the crime? No, but we have since hired a private security firm who patrol the area regularly. Things have improved.

    Case 3/

    2 bikes double chained to a concrete colunm in a 'secure' underground car park. Bikes gone. Called police. All entrances to the car park were covered by CCTV and the car park was only accessible to residents with a swipe fob. And there was a concierge. Obviously it would be wrong of me to apportion blame to the guys doing building work, with the tools to cut the bikes free and the van to bundle 'em into (and the concierge who let 'em in and out). Police didn't even want to turn up at my address (apparently they would if I specifically requested). I got my crime reference number and made my insurance claim.

    -CCTV? Yes, but useless.

    -Database/Register any use? No (though investigation of the construction firm would have been known, but no apparent serious investigation of this avenue).

    -Police at the scene of the crime? No.

    Case 4/

    Walking with my girlfriend along a CCTV observed street at 8pm. Got elbowed in the ribs by a chancer for absolutely no reason whatsoever (didn't know 'em, hadn't even made eye contact). Walked on and did nothing but still got a punch to the back of my head for good measure. Reported to the police. They arrive and take a statement. No crime number. Last I've heard of it.

    -CCTV? Yes, but useless.

    -Database/Register any use? No.

    -Police at the scene of the crime? No. Took a statement after, for what it's worth.

    Case 5/

    Got surrounded and held up at a cashpoint. Handed over wallet and phone. They run off. But unfortunately for them, they were being watched by undercover cops (who had to wait until I was actually mugged before making chase, apparently - lucky there were no weapons involved, eh?). They catch the muggers (and return my wallet & phone!). They were also caught on CCTV and were already known to police. Court case verdict: a couple of 'em sent down for a short while. One lad is too young and pretty much gets away with it. One lad claims he has "things going on in his head" and sentancing is deferred.

    -CCTV? Yes.

    -Database/Register any use? Only as evidence of previous misdemeanours.

    -Police at the scene of the crime? Yes. Had they not been, the CCTV and previous would've been no use to me.

    In my experience CCTV has acted as no serious deterent or substitute for an actual police presence. Databases/registers were only of any use once the criminals had been caught and were open to abuse without the culprit being caught red-handed.

    Off topic (-ish): Anyone seen the film Red Road? Excellent stuff, and one of CCTVs few saving graces if you ask me (if only for answering the question "I wonder what a female Bobby Gillespie would look like...?").

  22. AlfieUK

    Visual Images, Identifications and Detections Office (Viido)

    They missed a trick there, should have been:

    Visual Images, Detections and Identifications Office

    ...or, VIDIO :)

  23. michael

    do not laugh

    "Of course it could always be claimed that the miscreants also stole the warning signs..."

    I got into trouble when I ran a shop cos the kids stole my no somkin sines and when the helth and safty person came round they where not there

  24. lucas
    Thumb Down

    bike stolen

    My bike was stolen infront of CCTV. I watched the footage and called the cops a dozen times to tell them i had CCTV footage, never got a call back.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture

    @Its worse than that jim!!!!

    re: some hoodliums put a tree log through the windscreen of next door's Camper van, This was caught on the CCTV..." I think if I was that neighbor I would like to borrow that footage and give my clue bat a workout. Never mind the vigilante stuff. Appears the coppers don't want to do anything so it's up to us to advance civilization one small step at a time.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    billions of pounds

    Billions of pounds has been wasted on kit that we could instead have spent on more officers, better training and more prison spaces - instead we would like billions of more pounds to continue to be poured into this so I can keep showing off at the police ball.

  27. Pete

    @ bless 'um

    > He said investigating officers don't like looking through CCTV images "because it's hard work".

    OK. I've been racking my brains since I read this. the only question I can possibly think of is:

    hard work. harder than what?

    Really, sitting in a room watching telly. If that's the police definition of hard work that it explains a lot about their utter lack of interest in actually catching criminals.

    Maybe we should consider scrapping the police and spending the money on a national property insurance scheme. If you legalised drugs, too you could spend the money saved from paying the cops PLUS the revenue from selling legal dope. This could then be used to buy replacement goods for the (now much smaller number of) victims of property crime. Once you find a way of dealing with vehicle crime and the very occasional murder - now that drug gangs no longer exist, your crime problem will have solved itself.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Moan moan moan

    It's easy, if you want to see how interested and efficient the rozzas can be, refuse to pay your council tax, or rip off a fat cat business (nick a mars bar in tesco).

    Or for that matter protest against an illegal war, or vote for anyone other than nuLabor.

  29. brian

    Of course CCTV doesn't work....

    ... if it *did* work then you couldn't have a programme on telly called something like "Criminals caught on CCTV". If CCTV worked then why does Crimewatch show crims robbing banks? Everyone *knows* banks have had CCTV for 30-40 years.

    The evidence is against CCTV - a complete and utter waste of time and money.

  30. Eden

    Warning Signs

    I was looking at getting CCTV to cover my bike after 4 thefts and several attempts (If they can't steal it they'll smash it to bits it seems) and 3rd party doesn't cover it.

    The idea of having to have huge reflective signs that basically say please double check your hoodie and blaclava before stealing this bike and flipping a bird to the camera made it so pointless it hurt.

    Deterent my butt, if they are happy to steal it with me there in the house (and the police didn't care to come out of course) a warning sign isn't going to suddenly scare them off, the ABSCENCE of the warning sign however may let me catch their scum faces on camera and get them locked up if the police are interested.


  31. Steven Raith

    He said investigating officers don't like looking through CCTV images "because it's hard work".

    S'funny, the school I worked at, we would provide them with the relevant footage. We were never allowed to get out of going through hours of data "because it's hard work" to get it to them.

    Charming, eh?

    Steven R

  32. Red Bren

    A missed opportunity

    A Eurovision win is even more poisonous to a music career than writing and recording a James Bond theme.

    So we can blame Franco for the continuing career of Sir Cliff "I haven't earned enough yet" Richard

  33. Henry Wertz Gold badge

    Civil case?

    Why don't you bring a civil case against the robbers. I assume Britain has equivalents to these.. here in the states if police were uninterested, I would bring a case in small claims court. For civil cases, the standard of evidence is FAR lower than criminal court since it's not someone's freedom on the line (so the CCTV footage would be admissable.) For small claim's court, it's apparently very informal -- no lawyers needed, just basically tell a judge what happened, probably bring like a mini-DVD player with your vid on it to show him, the defendents (if they even show up) say "Uhh, that's not us" even though it obviously is, and then the judge decides the case. Collecting is another matter if they don't want to pay, but I'm sure there's ways to collect.

  34. Anonymous Coward

    @Warning Signs

    Same with the speed/safety cameras ... why paint them yellow and put up warning signs? I say hide the cameras (in horse boxes etc) and catch more offenders. Low hanging fruit "innocent" car drivers might be but if you break the law then expect to be punished otherwise don't moan about others not being punished. If you don't like the law then become a politician or at the very least vote and attempt to get things changed.

    I do like the idea of spending the billions on cheap insurance and legal drug pushing (NHS could make some more money that way) ... after all TAX man makes lots more through booze and fags and if people are stupid enough to take drugs they deserve to get taxed heavily!

    AC - because all you drunk/drugged-up speeding drivers out there would want to lynch me 8-)

  35. Anteaus

    Not surprised

    Speaking from experience of having successfully nailed a gang of stone-throwers who were breaking windows round here, I agree that video cameras are all-but-useless for evidence purposes. At anything but pointblank range they won't give you a recognisable face. Timed stills from a digicam are of more use.

    I often wondered if the cameras in town centres were actually of any use for evidence, in view of my own experiences. I guess if the operator knew a crime was in progress and zoomed-in close they might be, but otherwise I doubt it.

  36. ImaGnuber

    Can't be all bad?

    Hasn't anyone got a good word to say about Britain?

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Couldn't they...

    ... spend a few billion more (lets face it, it'll be spent whether it's on this or on the sub-webcam crap they buy now) on upgrading the cameras in high-crime areas? And outfitting them with decent IR illluminators (making sure, of course, that the cameras can see IR).

    IR will pass through thin materials- say, that stocking over someone's head that would defeat visible spectrum CCTV- as well as allowing (with a decent camera) goodish night-time vision AND good daytime vision. Make sure it's acceptable as evidence in court, and to prevent people moaning about pervy police looking into their homes they could black-out (with marker pen or paint I guess) the part of the enclosure that would look into private homes.

    It may also be a good idea to require "local loop" CCTV installed in new housing areas so residents can see what the police can see- preventing any accusations of perviness. Or just have it all available over the internet as streaming video.

    May I also suggest CC-PIR sensors to any police planners watching for tower blocks/flat blocks? none of the accuracy etc of CCTV, but at least you can check who's entering and leaving and see where they moved about while in the private areas. Sort of like having a T-Rex as a Big Brother.

    Personally, I'd not mind living in a nice safe surveilance state, so long as the surveilance was kept to outside the home. As so long as I got some serious benefits apart from a lack of crime- such as mm-precision, state-funded positioning information, 100% open access to CCTV and other footage, a free car to replace the one that got nicked under the current useless system and a complete ban on the phrases "To Fight Terrorism" or "Think of the Children!" in all forms of media or communication issued by the government.

  38. Liam
    Black Helicopters

    just unreal!

    "This looks for distinctive logos on clothing to find previous images of suspects where they may not have concealed their identities as effectively as when they actually committed the crime." so - burberry tiny bball cap and a tracksuit then?

    im sure the police think they get those 'magic' CCTV like on the movies where a shite picture can be enhanced to make it HD quality

    the police in this uk are just a waste of time. they are more interested in harassing black kids and catching people driving 5 mph over the limit :(

    you see how fast you get a response after a burglary!

    "The Information Commissioner has said it wants to see safeguards on who can access images, and it would have concerns if images of "individuals going about their daily lives was retained". oh like the tax offices that found 600+ employees had been snooping on private info!

    the authorities and police have proved time and again they cannot be trusted with the most basic of tasks, let alone anything involving technology!

    i left my old car in a car park - right infront of a CCTV camera. when i came back from shopping someone had stuffed the side of the car in. all panels and door. i reported this to the police and heard nothing back from them. what the hell do the pigs do anyway? apart from harass and annoy us? they certainly are never any help. and im sure 1/2 of them are just sat trying to catch to odd motorist who dares to go over 30, no matter what time of day it is (im sorry but 30 mph at night is just stupid!)

    not to mention the fact that a friend of mine (christopher alder) was basically left to choke to death in front of a load of rozzers in hull police station. i saw the cctv footage - he is just dieing on the floor as they refuse to help him and laugh. nothing ever came of this! of course chris was black so he doesnt count to the pigs! yet when pissed i casually utter 'can anyone smell bacon' and am assaulted by some little lesbo pig, who puts me in a full nelson and smacks my face into the wall - threatening to lock me up in cells! erm... since when was taking thr piss illegal?

    @ Welcome to Stoneybridge - quality. i thought i was the only one to see that :)

    @ pete - "hard work. harder than what?" - thats what i was thiking. no wonder they are useless if they think that constitutes hard work

  39. SImon Hobson Silver badge
    IT Angle

    The police are on the other side ...

    A couple of days ago an aquaintance was telling me how his bank card has been cloned - and he even knows who by ! He's only used it once since it arrived, and for some reason the chip&pin machine "wasn't working" - so the cashier had to swipe it, but had great difficulties (yeah, right). Sounds like under the guise of all the difficulties, the guy had skimmed it.

    Anyway, aquaintance only finds out when cash machine won't give him anything and he's up to his overdraft limit - even after just having been paid. Bank doesn't want to know and expects him to prove that he didn't spend the money as it was all spent locally. Police don't want to know either - will "get round to it sometime". He points out to police that severl of the laces where card was used have CCTV, wouldn't it be a good idea to see what the guy looks like that was using the card ?

    In short, Police will only "get around to it", and if my aquaintance goes to the places to ask them not to wipe the tapes before the police can be bothered to look at them, they will nick him for interfering in the investigation ! WHAT ? The Police won't do their job in timely manner, yet they'll nick the victim if he tried to prevent vital evidence being erased !

    In that situation, I think my next words would be "I arrest you for aiding an offender, you do not have to say anything ....". I think THAT might get a response from the Police.

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hard work? Frustrating, time consuming, unnecessarily beaurocratic more like

    Most places have CCTV as a means to reduce their insurance costs. Sod the quality of images.

    There are over 2500 different CCTV formats and methods of imaging.

    The majority require specialist software for thier particular video format.

    A lot of operators do not supply the viewing software. IF they are even allowed access to the tapes.

    The software isn't installable on police systems as group policy in windows prevent the instalation of software to prevent viruses and driver conflicts and genarally buggering up the system.

    Gaffers do not like coppers sitting in the station viewing CCTV or 'watching tele' when they caould be trying to hit their visibility performance target.

    CCTV operators do not regularly check the times on CCTV to make the CCTV easier and quicker to view and avoid countless issues at court (if it gets that far).

    Unwillingness to replace worn VHS tapes, resulting in severely degraded images.

    No standard for multiplex video recording means viewing images on single frame very time comsuming.

    And when you get to view it the bugger is wearing a hoody.

    Hard work? Frustrating, time consuming, unnecessarily beaurocratic more like.

  41. Wayland Sothcott Bronze badge
    IT Angle


    If you use Go1984 software it's fantastic. It only records movement. It displays a calendar with red marks where it has recorded. Move the mouse over a red mark and you instantly see video. It's bloomin' fantastic. The problem is that most CCTV uses totally crappy crapped out tape.

  42. Fuzzy
    Black Helicopters

    Of course it's a waste of money.

    CCTV has been used in various parts of NSW for over 10 years. Ironically the evidence that CCTV does not work far outstrips the ability to use CCTV as evidence in a court of law.

    Being on one of the first programs I was one of a group studying the effectiveness of CCTV. Does it work? Only in the extreme cases of stupidity where the offenders do not care that the cameras are there. CCTV simply pushes the locality of crime into the surrounds where CCTV is not available For all the money that is invested into these programs the returns are simply not there. Investing that money either in an increased police presence or community programs has a greater effect

  43. Mike Green
    Thumb Up

    Response times.

    I was awoken one night by shouting out in the street. I thought it was just some drunks, but about 5 minutes later I heard 'Do him' and laughing and what sounded like a brick being thrown. I dutifully called the cops and within minutes a cop car passed. I assume no one was caught, as I didn't hear from them, but they certainly turned up quick enough.

  44. Moss Icely Spaceport
    Thumb Up

    The Bill

    Hang on, these CCTVs are GREAT.

    The cops on The Bill always get their blaggards after reviewing the CCTV tapes. In fact, the show is only about 'catching crim's by CCTV now.

    I thought Britain was a giant Big Brother set.

    Book 'im in Smiffy!

  45. Sillyfellow

    working for who?

    do you people see what the job of our police force really is now?

    it is not what they pretend (to serve us).

    the job of the modern UK police force is to: a.) watch us all very carefully. b.) keep us in line according to government's self serving requirements. c.) help to instill and maintain constant fear in our society d.) make money from fines

    it's clear that what the police do not do is care, or do anything, about any actual real crime unless it has political/PR benefits, or someone is "dead or about to die" the rest is ignored.

    is this what a police force is for? is how government and the police are behaving ok with you?

    i say it is simply not acceptable at all, especially considering the VAST amount of taxes we pay in various forms.

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