Is this Big Brother street ?
07-23-2007, 10:44 PM
Is this Big Brother street ?
By James McCarthy
SMILE...you’re on camera. Today we can reveal the incredible rise of CCTV with one Welsh street containing a staggering 73 spy cams in less than half-a-mile.
Wales on Sunday’s count on Cardiff’s St Mary Street and High Street, which runs as one 800m road, equates to one every 11m.
But private and public cameras were most prolific in Swansea’s 240m-long Wind Street Swansea, where we spotted 34 – or one every seven metres.
Newport’s 320m High Street had 20, one every 16 metres, while Llandudno’s Mostyn Street had just 10 over a 1,200m stretch, or one every 120 metres.
In the capital, Cardiff Council defended the figure in one of the city’s main thoroughfares, busy with shoppers and workers by day and heaving with partygoers by night.
A spokesman said: “The cameras in St Mary Street are used to monitor traffic but also the police use them to monitor crime and disorder.
“If there are any accidents, information can be put out to tell people to avoid the area. They’re quite useful.”
And South Wales Police’s Inspector Tony Bishop said: “They are one of the most effective tools to tackle crime because they provide crime prevention, crime detection, and evidence gathering for the courts.”
Barely a pace can be walked down any high street in the country without hundreds of images of shoppers being gathered by public and private organisations.
Spies in the sky sit atop lampposts, adorn walls and peer from doorways at passers by. They snap speeding drivers and motorists running red lights.
So common are they that hardly anyone notices the long eye of the lens in our towns and cities anymore.
There is no official record of camera numbers as shop owners do not need planning permission to put up CCTV.
The result is thousands of cameras watching our every move – Britain is the most heavily observed country in the world.
The latest studies show there are 4.2 million surveillance cameras in the UK, or one for every 14 people.
Whether they make us safer is debatable.
Mark Dziecielewski, of civil liberties group Watching Them Watching Us, said: “Politicians like cameras because they are seen to be doing something.
“But just like you see birds perched on scarecrows, the hoodies and dealers come back once the novelty has worn off.
“Having so many cameras in one place actually makes police investigations harder because they have to divert so much manpower into checking footage from every single camera.”
A spokesman for AXA insurance said CCTV did not necessarily reduce business premiums, adding: “They are usually installed for the peace of mind of the owners.
“Insurers are more interested in the physical security – shutters, grilles and an alarm connected to the police station.”
But doubts over their effectiveness has not deterred businesses from snapping up cameras, which are much cheaper than they once were.
Smart Protection Systems’ Daniel Botterill said: “The quality of the standard cameras was always pretty good, but people were put off by the video recording equipment.
“To get a good picture you would have to change the tape every three hours. Digital technology changed all that. A typical machine will now record continuously for three months.
“It used to cost thousands and has only become affordable for ordinary shops in the last five years.”
The Walkabout chain – which has pubs in Cardiff, Newport and Swansea – has CCTV watching drinkers at every bar.
A spokesman said: “All Walkabout venues have security cameras that record inside and outside the venues 24 hours a day, every day.
“We have them in place to ensure that all of our customers have a safe and fun Walkabout experience.”
~ Veritas Vos Liberabit ~
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