Ever since George Orwell coined the phrase ‘Big Brother’ in his book ‘1984’ (published in 1949), there has been a certain amount of scepticism surrounding the use of security cameras in public areas.
Disagreements range from general debating about how intrusive they are to our human rights, to comprehensive campaigns that aim to have cameras removed, or at least regulated more strictly. But for all their negative press, there are plenty of benefits to having CCTV surveillance systems monitoring public spaces and plenty of proof that shows their worth.
The Good –
Depending on which statistics you read, the number of crimes that are solved with the help of CCTV cameras tends to vary. However, there is no doubting the fact that they have played a key role in solving some very important cases over the years.
The London nail bomber, David Copeland, was identified and apprehended in 1999 thanks to CCTV footage, video pictures are currently helping the families of 96 football fans who were killed in the Hillsborough disaster of 1989 uncover the truth of that day’s events and finally receive justice, and, despite many of them being damaged as part of the furore, closed circuit television cameras were used as part of an operation that resulted in the arrest of over 3,000 people involved in the 2011 riots in London and Bristol.
The Bad –
Those who dispute the use of CCTV will point to the fact that we have gone from using a couple of temporary cameras in order to monitor public behaviour during the Thai royal family’s visit and on Bonfire Night in 1960, to a situation where there is now one camera for every eleven people in the UK. And whilst many people feel this gives them peace of mind and acts as an obvious deterrent to criminals, they have a differing opinion.
Even though these cameras are positioned in public areas (places where rights to privacy are often overlooked due to the benefits that surveillance can offer), opponents to the idea of CCTV state that the situations in which these cameras become beneficial are so rare that this does not warrant a constant intrusion of our privacy.
The Ugly –
As well as those who are against the principles of CCTV, there are also people who feel that they aren’t particularly aesthetically pleasing and are therefore acting as eyesores in our high-streets. There is always a need to be delicate when altering the look of the towns and cities up and down the country, but some say that we have neglected this in the past.
However, although CCTV cameras are still not the most beautiful things to look at, they have come a long way from just consisting of cameras on the end of poles. Intelligent and creative designs will mean that security cameras of the future are much less obtrusive in the way they look, but we always need to be aware that their discernible features are part of what makes them so effective.
There will always be opponents to the idea of thousands of cameras monitoring our behaviour in public places, but the positives they offer cannot be ignored. Not only do they provide much needed security to residential and commercial properties up and down the country (giving valuable peace of mind to those using them), they also provide concrete evidence which has become an excellent device in our courtrooms.