|Although in many cases CCTV has been an effective investigation tool, its full potential is not being realised
It’s all very well installing CCTV cameras, but to be effective users have to know what to do to make images available to the police and courts, according to detective chief inspector Mick Neville of the Metropolitan Police.
Although in many cases CCTV has been an effective investigation tool, its full potential is not being realised, says Neville, who is due to speak at IFSEC International on the subject of CCTV and safe cities. “We’ve spent millions of pounds on installing CCTV systems without necessarily thinking how they are going to be used effectively.”
“As far as I’m concerned, if you have adequate CCTV – with proper coverage of an area including cameras that are positioned to take good images of people’s faces, you have a major contribution to a safe city,” says Neville.
However, Neville is concerned about the level of knowledge users have about their systems. “Eighty percent of people who own systems don’t know how to use them properly. While it can be easier to search for images on digital and networked systems, this is a double edged sword because many users find it harder to download images for the police to take away. While in cases of major crime the police will endeavour to download relevant images themselves, for cases such as shoplifting the onus is really on the owners of systems.”
"As far as I’m concerned, if you have adequate CCTV – with proper coverage of an area including cameras that are positioned to take good images of people’s faces, you have a major contribution to a safe city"
Neville draws a distinction between CCTV systems operated by private organisations, and those run by town or city authorities, where there are fewer problems obtaining useable images. “But town centre schemes are only a small part of the picture – most cameras are owned by private organisations,” he notes.
Even town centre schemes, however, come in for some criticism from Neville. “They need to be more aware of their own performance indicators to compare themselves against each other. They are very good at compliance but not so good at measuring their own performance. No business would invest in equipment and not expect to compare itself to a rival. For example, if Coca-Cola built a plant with new equipment, Pepsi-Cola would want to know how it was performing in comparison.”
“Fundamentally, the owner of a CCTV system needs to think of it as an end-to-end process, with the end user being the police and courts. Putting up cameras and then not knowing how to get the most out of them is rather like a military general buying thousands of machine guns and then not training his soldiers how to use them.”
"If used properly, CCTV is an extremely effective way of preventing and detecting crime – but installers, operators, business owners, police and courts all have to be working together."