Saturday, 8 March 2008

You are under video surveillance!

After the perceived success of the use of head mounted cameras by Devon and Cornwall police officers, it is only a matter of time before police in Cornwall will be using them too.

The head cameras were fist piloted in Plymouth, Devon last year by police officers from the Devon and Cornwall Constabulary. The Force reported that where the cameras were used there was an increased proportion of crimes brought to justice compared to when they were not in use by officers. This led to the Home Office in London promising to make more head cameras available for police officers in the future.

According to the English Minister of State for Police, Crime, Security and Counter-Terrorism, Tony McNulty:

"The use of body worn cameras has the potential to improve significantly the quality of evidence provided by police officers in the drive to reduce crime, the fear of crime and increase the proportion of offenders brought to justice."

"I am delighted to be able to announce £3million for the police service which will enable forces to make this valuable technology available to frontline police officers in England and Wales."

With the addition of police head cameras, Britain’s network of video surveillance will be broadened yet again. Britain already has the most extensive network of surveillance cameras in the world, with 4 million closed-circuit television cameras. It has been estimated by civil rights groups that the average UK citizen is recorded as many as 300 times a day - almost 13 times an hour.

Cornwall is no exception to the CCTV network. In 2000 Cornwall County Council announced that in Truro and Falmouth alone there would soon be 74 CCTV cameras. At the time, Superintendent Andy Clarke, Commander of the Carrick Area, and Chairman of the Carrick Community Safety Partnership reported on the construction of a:

“…new purpose built Control Centre in Truro which will provide 24 hour monitoring throughout the CCTV area which also covers the Cathedral, the Hall for Cornwall complex and clubs and pubs”.

Since this time the use of CCTV cameras in Cornwall has grown considerably and the CCTV Control Centre in Truro has developed to the extent that a police contact of mine once said to me two years ago that there is very few place in the centre of Truro that are not covered. Sadly though, this intrusion of our civil liberties goes largely unnoticed by citizens in their every day lives.

A policy document from Devon and Cornwall Constabulary on ‘Installation and Monitoring of Force Closed Circuit Television (CCTV)’ was updated in February 2008 and ‘Guidance for the police use of body-worn video devices’ can be found by clicking here.

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