CCTV Systems and the London Riots

Despite concerns that the current infrastructure of London’s CCTV systems may not be up to the demands of combating terrorism, the Boston Herald cites London as having possibly the highest concentration of security surveillance cameras in the world resulting in the riots being the ‘most photographed outbreak of civic mayhem ever’.

Most of the people involved in the looting and violence are so used to the cameras that they really have become just street furniture and, whilst some wore masks or used their hoods and scarves to mask their identity, the implication of their recording capability was certainly lost on many, who seemed to take no precautions whatsoever. This meant that even the oldest, analogue camera systems with restricted image quality could produce usable pictures.

And so the newspapers and television continue to display a multitude of static CCTV images with appeals for the public to report anyone they recognise – be it their faces, their clothing or their body shape.

Despite a police officer telling the BBC back in June that only 3% of crimes were solved using CCTV, the development of software that can read number plates and text and isolate specific human behaviour plus the advent of controversial “Talking CCTV”, where control centre staff can speak to people they are watching, asking them to pick up litter or move on means that its significance is growing. This latest involvement in catching some of the perpetrators of the London Riots and the resolution of other recent high profile cases like the murder of Millie Dowler can only serve to improve its standing in the public eye.

For all those who cry about the infringement of civil liberties, many feel much safer knowing that someone is watching over London.

Operation Withern was run by the Metropolitan Police using images taken by cameras that are part of London’s CCTV Systems.