The Tories in Bournemouth: TV cameras set for larger anti-crime role

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The Independent Online
CLOSED-CIRCUIT television cameras are likely to play a larger role in the fight against crime. Government funding to pay for new schemes is planned and the Home Office is due to issue guidelines next month to promote the use of closed-circuit television to combat crime in town and city centres.

John Major is expected to announce that funding to pay for CCTV schemes will be made available, as part of his closing speech to the conference this afternoon.

According to Government and Whitehall sources, the Prime Minister will announce a competition with entrants bidding for funds to set up CCTV schemes.

The Home Office is also expected to unveil new CCTV guidelines as part of a series of technology-based crime prevention initiatives due to be announced soon.

Ministers called for the publication of the guidelines contained in a report by Philip Edwards and Nick Tilley, Home Office crime prevention specialists, after recognition of the need for guidance on the use of public surveillance systems.

CCTV use is already widespread with more than 200 surveillance systems in operation, or planned, covering town and city centres, car parks, industrial and other sites across the country.

The Government has also demonstrated its support for the new technology by amending the Criminal Justice and Public Order Bill - which returns to the House of Commons later this month - to overcome objections raised by district auditors over expenditure by local authorities on CCTV systems.

The new report will push for the introduction of local codes of practice to ensure new systems are used effectively and that due concern is paid to issues of public confidence, civil liberties and security matters. The Association of Chief Police Officers also supports the introduction of local codes of practice.

The code of practice will recommend that named local officials take charge of CCTV systems. Location of control rooms in secure local authority premises or police stations is also suggested, as is the requirement that video tapes for use in prosecutions are held by a senior police officer, and police checks on proposed operators are undertaken.

In response to questions of civil liberties, the proposed code of practice also rejects the covert use of public closed-circuit television surveillance. However, the ability of public video surveillance to combat crime has been called into question. According to James May, director-general of the British Retail Consortium: 'A large number of CCTV schemes are being planned and installed in towns and cities amid claims that CCTV cuts crime. Whilst there is some evidence that crime has been reduced in some towns which first installed systems, there is no evidence to date that retail crime costs or the level of sales have improved.'

Lack of hard evidence of the ability of CCTV schemes to cut crime costs has resulted in the consortium questioning retailers on their support for such measures and whether they think the surveillance schemes have helped to reduce crime. The results will be included in the BRC's second annual Retail Crime Cost Survey due to be published in January.

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