The Mandrake system, which is being adopted on a trial basis by the Metropolitan Police, triggers an alarm system whenever its network of cameras identifies a known criminal whose image has been placed on a police database. A security officer in a CCTV control room then decides whether to alert police patrols.
Its introduction yesterday as part of a six-month pilot scheme in the east London borough of Newham, provoked civil liberties groups to complain that the line between law enforcement and individual privacy had been overstepped. Liz Parratt, campaigns manager for the civil rights group Liberty, said: A balance needs to be struck between the needs of law enforcement and individual privacy - our view is that the use of this technology strikes the wrong balance."
Malcolm Smith, Newham council's environment director, said the system would be invaluable in curtailing the activities of persistent criminals.