Glasgow says yes to Big Brother

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The Independent Online
(First Edition) BIG BROTHER arrives in Glasgow this week when Britain's most advanced public surveillance system is switched on, with cameras that can detect the colour of a person's eyes from 400 yards, day or night, writes John Arlidge.

Civil liberties groups have expressed anxiety over the 24-hour spy cameras, but the new pounds 1m scheme has been welcomed by almost all Glaswegians.

From Tuesday, 32 colour, 360-degree cameras will monitor the streets of a city notorious for its violence. Pictures will be beamed into a local police station, where trained civilians will monitor them.

The scheme is the largest of its kind in Britain and Glaswegians have already voiced their support. Earlier this year, a System Three poll commissioned by CityWatch, the group co-ordinating the Glasgow programme, revealed that 95 per cent supported the plan, with only 2 per cent against it. A mere 7 per cent said it threatened their privacy.

More than 50 British cities have had public spy cameras installed in the last decade, an increase which reflects a growing fear of crime.

High-profile cases like the abduction and killing of James Bulger have shown that closed circuit TV can be used to identify the culprits and have increased support for the cameras.

In the System Three poll, less than one third of people said they felt safe in Glasgow city centre at night and 66 per cent said they thought surveillance would make it safer.

In Glasgow's Scotia bar last week, Elaine Bryce, a student aged 19, backed the cameras' installation. She pointed out: 'There have been a number of muggings and attacks on people round here lately and that makes me feel vulnerable. Cameras will make people think twice before mugging or attacking someone.'

Strathclyde Police welcome the scheme as 'a vital modern tool' in the fight against crime. Superintendent Graeme Pearson, who has advised CityWatch, said: 'They enhance people's opportunites to enjoy public places. And remember, cameras can prove innocence as well as guilt.'