Forests of CCTV cameras in the UK's town centres have failed to have any impact on anti-social behaviour, an ACPO official told the House of Lords Constitution Committee yesterday.
Graeme Gerrard, head of CCTV at the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), said cameras did a good job deterring crimes like theft, for example in car parks. Such criminals are presumably acting "rationally", he said, and will take cameras and other surveillance kit into account.
But when it comes to making town centres safe after the pubs shut, it seems you'd be better off sending in the Salvation Army.
"Before CCTV can effectively deter people, they need to know the cameras are there. They have got to be thinking about the consequences of their behaviour," he said.
Clearly, drunken youths are, by definition, not going to be thinking rationally, and will happily be taking lumps out of each other, innocent passers by, and street furniture whether they're being watched by their girlfriends, their mates, CCTV, or even Sky TV.
Gerrard insisted that the proliferation of CCTV cameras in public spaces was being driven by local communities, or rather local authorities and other public agencies.
The public was often left disappointed by CCTV's lack if impact on drunkenness and violence, he said. "... it doesn't deter most crime. I think they are perhaps misled in terms of the amount of crime that CCTV might prevent."
Gerrard’s evidence might have seemed slightly at odds with ACPO's own written submission to the committee, which said: "The availability of CCTV images greatly assists in the investigation of crime and disorder."
However, the evidence goes on to say: "Although the crime reduction capability of CCTV is sometimes disputed, the contribution to crime investigation is significant and the recovery of available CCTV evidence is one of the first actions taken during a major investigation."
So, the conclusion seems to be that CCTV will do little to deter young men from tanking up on Old Wifebeater before pummelling anything that comes in their path. But, perhaps, there's a slightly better chance they'll get collared afterwards. ®