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“More Private CCTV” Advocates Top Police Chief

Hogan Howe asks for public help in catching criminals

This week, Scotland Yard Chief, Sir Bernard Hogan Howe advocated that more householders and businesses should consider CCTV to help the police catch burglars and other criminals (see the story here). Because facial recognition is improving, CCTV images can be matched against the national crime database which stores over 12 million images of suspects and offenders to attempt to find the person responsible. Sir Hogan Howe said that more cameras installed by the public on their own property, or by businesses on their commercial premises, were needed in Britain to help the police catch and prosecute criminals.

He also called for the cameras to be positioned at eye level rather than overhead in order to capture the kind of images appropriate for facial recognition technology. Traditionally cameras are placed high up to keep them from being damaged but images taken of the top of people’s heads are of limited value and wouldn’t meet the criteria for facial recognition. If you were worried about the cameras themselves being vandalised there are things that you can do such as link them directly to the burglar alarm, which would be triggered in the event of one being taken out, or subtly disguise them so it’s not immediately obvious that that’s what it is (though you would need to make people aware that CCTV was in use).

CCTV an invasion of privacy?

Privacy campaigners are unhappy with the police chief’s suggestion, claiming that more CCTV would infringe people’s privacy and be yet another step closer to Big Brother, as described in George Orwell’s novel, 1984. They worry that footage will capture innocent people going about their business and could potentially be misused to snoop without any real basis.

These fears are understandable but we believe that CCTV doesn’t have to be intrusive if it is professionally installed according to best practice guidelines. These include limiting the scope of the cameras to your own property and warning people that there is CCTV in operation. We posted some home CCTV and business CCTV guidelines on the blog last year.

The facts about CCTV

CCTV isn’t just a means of catching a criminal, it can equally be a deterrent. Few will attempt a break in if they know there is a chance of being caught on camera so increased use of CCTV could in fact help to reduce the crime rate as well as catch more perpetrators.

There are of course perceived issues with CCTV that put people off such as poor positioning of cameras which can result in unusable images, poor image quality and failure to record but all of these things can be avoided by using a reputable security company to supply, install and maintain it and good quality equipment. There was a story recently about CCTV systems being hacked and images streamed live on the internet to make a point about the lack of security but this was only possible because people had failed to change passwords from original factory settings or used very weak, obvious passwords. Correct programming and use of a strong password would avoid this.

In the past the cost of CCTV systems for the home has been prohibitive but that is changing. Prices now start at around £700 for a professionally installed system from a good quality manufacturer. If you want to take Sir Hogan Howe up on his suggestion and have a CCTV system installed, or review the position of your cameras, then please get in touch by calling us on 0800 612 9799 (from a landline) or 0345 833 5543 (from a mobile).