Cameras 'fail to reduce crime'

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The Independent Online

The Government could be wasting its money by investing in surveillance cameras, according to a study due to be published soon.

Researchers at South Bank University have monitored the effect of introducing the cameras in Sutton, south London. Crime fell by 13 per cent in the area where the cameras were installed. However, it decreased by 30 per cent in the borough as a whole.

Other, generally simpler initiatives, such as locking multi-storey car parks overnight and providing security staff with pagers so they can keep in contact with the control room, are credited with reducing the crime rate across the borough.

Surveillance cameras had a disproportionate affect on certain crimes. Burglaries, vandalism and vehicle crime decreased, while robberies, thefts and the possession of drugs increased.

Criminals also switched to stealing from people when they were inside shops. Most assaults still took place in the high street. Burger outlets, pubs and the railway station were the favourite area for assaults.

The report says: "CCTV has recently been the subject of several television documentaries and ... banner headlines claiming large reductions in recorded crime. In the main, these claims are not based on any substantial research."

The Government is planning to install up to 10,000 more surveillance cameras in Britain's high streets, estates and city centres at a cost of pounds 15m.

A spokesman for the Association of Chief Police Officers said that research of this type was unlikely to prove the benefits of the cameras.

"It's impossible to prove one way or another whether the cameras work. It's like trying to prove that BSE cannot be transmitted to humans. They are one part of a multi-disciplinary approach [to crime fighting]."

Many of the benefits of the cameras are hidden, according to Acpo, but it was "common sense" to "know that it engenders a feeling of reassurance in the public", the spokesman said. "It's also patently obvious that if someone is going to put a brick through a window, they won't do it in the view of a camera," he added.

Conor Foley, spokesman for civil liberties group Liberty, warned the cameras could end up having little overall effect on crime because police resources might be reduced overall or redirected to other areas.

"It could give local authorities the excuse to stop the police from patrolling in troublesome areas. They could be used as a cost-cutting measure," Mr Foley said.