Feeds

Cops and Home Office plot uber-CCTV network

Tracking all of the people, all of the time

Boost IT visibility and business value

You know in the movies or on the telly, where the sinister (Bourne) or perhaps heroic (Spooks) government agents are thinking about a problem somewhere?

The person in charge often barks something like "Is there any CCTV?"

Some kind of minion - perhaps dressed and coiffured like a tramp to indicate technical competence - quickly rattles away on a keyboard. And then, within seconds, bingo - the boss is looking at live images of a given street, often with sufficient resolution to identify faces.

Scary stuff - though old Jason Bourne usually gets away, and often turns the tables on the watchers.

A lot of people believe that this sort of capability already exists in the UK, widely described as the most watched country in the world. The headline figure which probably sank deepest into the public consciousness was that Londoners get videoed or snapped by camera systems 300 times each day; surely enough for sharply-dressed Spooks in their shiny offices to watch us without ever leaving Thames House.

That's all cobblers, according to a new report released last week under the joint auspices of top-cop talkshop ACPO and the Home Office. National CCTV Strategy (big pdf) says that the reality is rather different. Most of the cameras that record us produce grainy images insufficient to identify a face, it seems. In many cases, supposing we have committed a crime, the plods won't ever become aware of the existence of useful recordings before they get overwritten.

If they do find out about the records, it won't be a lovely lightning process in a high-tech office. Rather, a copper standing at a crime scene will normally spot a camera, go to see its owner, physically seize some recordings, get them put onto a VHS cassette, and then laboriously sit and watch loads of tape to see if there is anything of use. The vast majority of British CCTV systems are privately owned, according to the report's authors; and even in the case of public systems, only rarely do plods or other executive agencies have any remote hookup. It's far more normal for footsore investigators to trudge round and collect evidence by hand, even with council cameras. It seems that in many cases likely suspects have to be bailed because CCTV footage can't be got hold of quickly enough.

As for Bourne-style real-time action, that seems to be almost fantasy. Local authority CCTV operators monitoring town centres strive for pro-active or quick-reactive capability, but often enough don't even have access to the police radio net - they have to phone up like everyone else. And it isn't uncommon for "roaming" work using pan/tilt/zoom cameras to later lead to complaints because the camera could have been trained on a known troublespot the whole time but wasn't, or because it didn't record a known incident for evidence purposes.

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
The police are WRONG: Watching YouTube videos is NOT illegal
And our man Corfield is pretty bloody cross about it
China hopes home-grown OS will oust Microsoft
Doesn't much like Apple or Google, either
UK government accused of hiding TRUTH about Universal Credit fiasco
'Reset rating keeps secrets on one-dole-to-rule-them-all plan', say MPs
Fast And Furious 6 cammer thrown in slammer for nearly three years
Man jailed for dodgy cinema recording of Hollywood movie
Caught red-handed: UK cops, PCSOs, specials behaving badly… on social media
No Mr Fuzz, don't ask a crime victim to be your pal on Facebook
e-Borders fiasco: Brits stung for £224m after US IT giant sues UK govt
Defeat to Raytheon branded 'catastrophic result'
Don't even THINK about copyright violation, says Indian state
Pre-emptive arrest for pirates in Karnataka
Yes, but what are your plans if a DRAGON attacks?
Local UK gov outs most ridiculous FoI requests...
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?