Remarks by Metropolitan Police Detective Chief Inspector Mike Neville on the use of public sector CCTV prompted a stir in the general media on May 6.
While Det Chief Insp Neville did not elaborate on the original comments made at the Security Document World conference in London, police and former police were to the fore in commenting. Neville queried the use that CCTV was put to in the capital on catching street criminals. While he questioned the quality of the systems installed, he also queried whether police were making best use of the equipment. <br><br>Speaking on the BBC1 Six O’Clock News on May 6, ACPO CCTV lead and Cheshire Deputy Chief Constable Graham Gerrard said: “There is no national database of images of people; so whilst we might have the images, the difficulty we then have is to identify who it is and sometimes it isn’t easy; and clearly we could do better.” <br><br>Commenting, the British Security Industry Association agreed that there is a need for a more cohesive approach in the application of CCTV systems in the UK.<br><br>BSIA CCTV Section Chairman, Pauline Norstrom, said: "CCTV is playing a valuable part in crime prevention and detection in this country. However, there is a need for a more cohesive and holistic approach by CCTV stakeholders to ensure that the benefits of advancing technology are utilised effectively. This is already being undertaken in the form of the National CCTV Strategy, in which the BSIA is already heavily involved. CCTV has evolved over a number of years and in some cases the management of the technology has taken place on an adhoc basis with systems owned by both the public sector and private companies. This evolution has meant that there have been areas of disconnect across government agencies. However, now this issue has been recognised by the authorities and work is being undertaken to ensure that CCTV systems are used – both proactively to deter crime and more effectively to gather vital evidence – in a more structured way."<br><br>"Detective Chief Inspector Mike Neville also commented that little thought has gone into how CCTV images will be used in court. The industry has been working to combat this over recent years and a new British Standard BS 8495 which covers the use of digital CCTV images in court has been created to address this issue. Users of CCTV systems should make sure that their systems comply with that standard to ensure that images carry sufficient weight in court.<br><br>"CCTV will continue to play an important part in the security and safety of people in the UK. Research has shown that it reduces fear of crime amongst communities and there are many examples of the technology not only preventing crime, but also playing a significant part in the detection of crime. The Jamie Bulger case, the London bombings and the recent Tonbridge convictions are just three high profile examples of where CCTV can make a significant contribution to solving crime. Through the police, Government, CCTV industry and the users of systems working more closely together, the technology can be used even more effectively."
Responding to media comment on the effectiveness of CCTV, Graeme Gerrard, Deputy Chief Constable of Cheshire Police and ACPO lead on CCTV said on the ACPO website: “When a crime has occurred CCTV is a vital element in the investigative process. In certain major investigations it can be particularly substantial and significant, as it has been in some terrorist cases.
“Despite its value, however, the CCTV network in the UK has built up in a piecemeal way, driven by local authorities and the private sector more than by the police. There are questions about how we can make better use of it in the future by establishing standards for quality of image and format so that detection opportunities are not missed. New technologies such as facial recognition also offer potential for increasing the effectiveness of images in the future, and ACPO has highlighted the need for coordination in taking this work forward.
“Coverage in the media today illustrates some of the remaining problems and the frustration felt in the police service when an investigation is unable to use CCTV images to solve a crime because of a poor standard of quality. As the police officer quoted in the media today has said, better training and more intelligent use of the technology are important to the future development of how we use CCTV.
“That should not allow us to overlook its benefits, however. Overall, ACPO believes the contribution of CCTV to the detection of crime is likely to equal that of DNA and fingerprints. We will continue to work with government and the private sector to drive up standards so that its full potential to solve crime is exploited.”
The topic had wide coverage in the press – see for example in The Guardian: see Owen Bowcott’s article: