1,000 surveillance cameras = 1 solved crime in the UK

What happens when the government blankets London with surveillance cameras at a cost of £500m?
Only one crime was solved by each 1,000 CCTV cameras in London last year, a report into the city's surveillance network has claimed.
1,000 cameras 'solve one crime'


  1. “Studies show that increasing the density pattern of cameras does indeed solve more crimes!” -Later on the news.

    I was wondering since taking pictures in London is a crime (some citizens get treated as criminals) why don’t they arrest the CCTV camera owners? Scale must have something to do with it.

    When each CCTV camera takes roughly 864,000 frames a day (@ 10fps) those 1,000 cameras over the course of the year capture roughly 315.3 BILLION frames.

    All to solve one crime. It takes 315.3 Billion images from those 1,000 CCTV’s to solve one crime.

    Further consider that there are over a million CCTV cameras in London. A million times 315.3 Billion comes out to:
    315,360,000,000,000,000 frames/picture taken to solve ~ 1,000 crimes.

    Just to repeat that it takes roughly 315.36 QUADRILLION pictures over the course of a year to solve 1,000 crimes.

    A quadrillion is a very hard number to wrap the head aound. This is what one quadrillion pennies looks like: http://www.mentalfloss.com/blogs/archives/11374

  2. Okay, so how many policemen does it take to solve a crime, and at what financial cost?

    There needs to be some sense of scale here to give proper contrast.

  3. They solved 1 crime for every 1000 CCTV cameras?

    Wow, they must have solved hundreds of thousands of crimes then!


  4. I wonder how long it will take them to realize that they should hire people to go out and be bobbies on the beat rather than wasting money on cameras that take pictures no-one has time to watch.

    CCTV cameras are as effective in London as flying drones over Afghanistan than kill (or should it be “solve”) more civilians than they do “terrorists”.

    Is all the collateral damage to privacy worth the aggravation? I think not. Yet because it would look like they were being “soft on crime” they’ll never remove the cameras.

    I just hope someone has the good sense to just shut them off. No one will notice the difference.

  5. I’m not a fan of big brother surveillance, but this statistic is all about spin. FTA: “We estimate more than 70% of murder investigations have been solved with the help of CCTV retrievals and most serious crime investigations have a CCTV investigation strategy.”

    The headline could have been: “CCTV cameras help in over 70% of murder and serious crime investigations”.

    Wow, doesn’t seem so useless now. Of course if we all had cameras implanted in our eyes, then the government could see everything!

  6. Can someone explain what the confusing syntax “Only one crime was solved by each 1,000 CCTV cameras” means in American English? Like, 1 total or 1 by each, totalling 1000?

    Anyway, I can’t stand CCTV either, but there are two other interesting points later in the article:

    A spokesman for the Met said: “We estimate more than 70% of murder investigations have been solved with the help of CCTV retrievals and most serious crime investigations have a CCTV investigation strategy.”

    Well, that sounds promising, but then it’s followed (naturally) by this great, ubiquitous, pointless canard:

    A Home Office spokeswoman said CCTVs “help communities feel safer”.

    Oh that makes my blood boil!

  7. @#5- What damage to privacy? You’re in public, you can be looked at. You can even be looked at by policemen. The policemen can observe what you look like, what you’re doing, and where they see you going until you’re out of eyesight. Tourists could take your picture without hesitation, too.

    Really, what privacy did you think you had once you stepped out of your front door?

  8. @Cicada #5: it’s the difference between passing a policeman on the street and being tailed as soon as you leave your door. One is reasonable, the other is harassment.

  9. cicada, would you mind if I sit down the street from your house with a camera and take your daughters picture every day? I swear I’m not stalking her.

  10. @#9- Is it? Under UK law, if the policeman quietly followed you at a respectful distance, did nothing to interfere with you on your way, and merely observed would he be in violation of the existing laws?

  11. @#10- You’re overly personalizing it– the proper analogy would be if someone were sitting down the street taking pictures of _everyone_ that passed.

    Look at it this way– I’ve heard plenty of tales of live UK policement deciding to harass passersby, cameramen, etc…what have the cameras done that makes them worse?

  12. i was personalizing it to the same extent you were in #5, and having a private citizen taking my picture is quite different from having a governmental entity do the same.

    The proper question, and what I wish you had asked to make your point is: Really, what privacy did we think we had once we stepped out of our front doors?

    I appreciate that you have found your personal answer to that question. Mine is quite different. Thanks for respecting that.

    And as a complete aside – Torchwood makes great use of of the camera’s, that’s the only plus that I see, because the dangerous criminals aren’t any more afraid of cameras than they are of the daylight the camera’s are useful in .

  13. @13- What makes the difference significant, though? If it makes a difference whether a private citizen takes the photo or a government official does, would you have an objection to, say, Google renting space on buildings and creating a continually updated street view, accessible by all? What if that all included the police?

    For that matter, why don’t you worry about private citizens taking your photo?

  14. cicada – To the extent the majority can use the tools of the state to oppress the minority, I dislike the idea of an integrated surveillance infrastructure owned by the state. I say that with some irony, as an American.

    That Google building thing would be a money pit, but it’s their prerogative. ‘all’ should include people inclined to call the police when they see something bad happening at my house. As long as someone is watching the watchmen (warrants for surveillance, etc…) then ‘all’ can and would include the police.

    On the last point – If someone wants to take my photo I’m probably being interesting. Why would that worry me?

  15. @15- What does an integrated surveillance infrastructure do that an unintegrated one (Flatfoot Joe on the beat, I guess that’d be) doesn’t?

    Basically, what malicious purpose are you trying to prevent? I’m guessing it’s assumed there is one, but what is it?

  16. If the numbers are true, there are over 1,000,000 cameras in London that average 1 crime for 1,000 cameras.

    If the headline was written as “CCTV Network solves over 1,000 crimes annually”, I wonder if we’d be seeing a different reaction?

    With that said, the scale and integration of the CCTV network is very different from just having more policemen on the streets. I don’t feel my privacy is being invaded when I walk past a police officer on foot patrol. But if we had a police officer on every street taking notes on who pased by, or one dedicated to following every pedestrian around the city, I think I — and everyone else — would feel very differently.

    Of course we don’t expect privacy in public, but we do expect a certain degree of anonymity, to be able to blend into the crowd. People can see us, but we don’t expect to be stalked. And that’s effecively what’s going on when permanent records are kept of our every move.

  17. After being mugged in London in 2007 in a side street on my way home, I was told by the police to take bigger roads in future, where they have cameras installed. Without CCTV footage the police would not investigate.

    So, what’s the learning effect?
    A) That if I get mugged where there are no cameras, it’s my own fault?
    B) We are surrendering the not surveillance space to scum that has an effective licence to mug people?
    C) CCTV cameras are not about preventing crime, (The reason they where installed for) but in finding out who to prosecute. That makes me neither safer, nor does it make me feel safer.
    D) UK’s crime levels are not lower than other European countries. CCTV cameras do not prevent crime. Crimes are only investigated if the police have a simple way of solving it.
    E) Money is being spent on virtual police that live behind the lens of a CCTV, and can neither make me safer through their presence, nor intervene as the crime unfolds. I’d prefer real, properly trained police on the streets.

    I sometimes think that the prevalence of CCTVs is comparable to the arms industry efforts to extract tax money to develop more weapons. This interior arms race is most likely ( I have no proof) fuelled by scaremongering and bribes and is no longer about quality of life, and safe cities, but a self propelled machinery that has convinced itself that the mechanized warfare it is raging is necessary and has a point. (DNA DB, ID cards, biometrics, computer automated CCTV behavioural assessment… …)


  18. #10, MDH, What are you doing in PUBLIC that has you scared to get your picture taken (even though no one even looks at the pictures)?

    Are you OK with someone taking and posting this photo? http://www.flickr.com/photos/tingreen/2274439882/

    A public space is a public space for everyone, even the government. Just because they have the capital to install more cameras than an individual, doesn’t make them wrong. You could go get a bunch of friends and line up along the streets with cameras and take all the pictures and video you want and that’d be ok.

    It isn’t like they’re following you home and putting a camera in your bathroom.

  19. I’m rather mixed on the question of surveillance cameras. I consider it a rather neutral technology, that needs strong safeguards to be used properly in a democratic society (the usual question, quis custodiet ipsos custodes?). I’d suggest people in the UK to read carefully the Data Protection Act, and to keep a close eye on what the Information Commissioner’s Office has to say on the matter. http://www.ico.gov.uk

    Note that the only thing surveillance cameras can do is establish some facts, which is neutral. It can equally serve the prosecution or the defence, and may avoid some miscarriages of justice.

    There’s been a case in France a few years ago, where four people were accused of having assaulted anti-riot cops, and incited a riot. The CCTV records showed that the cops’ version was bunk, leading to the accused being cleared. So the cameras watch the cops too. Don’t you find it comforting?

  20. As this study:


    (and #19) suggest, CCTV doesn’t prevent crime, it just moves it around. Like any fixed system of prevention, smart criminals will learn to circumvent it, or avoid it. Before long, the only people left being surveilled will be law abiding citizens. The next step after that is to make it illegal to avoid the cameras.

    CCTV systems are becoming social DRMs; systems of control, not safety. Take the routes we watch, so we can “protect” you. No thank you. An empowered citizenship, involved in their communities and government is the best way for people to be safe. People with their eyes open, connected to their neighbors; not walking with their eyes on the ground, cowed by their government.

    This is a good example of how this tech can be abused… it chilled me to the bone.


    Notice that the program starts with the “worst” families. Notice also that Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling said: “This is all much too little, much too late.”

    Do you think this program, if unsuccessful, will be canceled (without public pressure and outrage, I mean)? Or will it be expanded, on the grounds that if it was more widespread, it would be more effective? If it is successful, do you think the government will be content to have intervened in the “worst” cases and leave it at that? Or will it be expanded, citing it’s success as a reason?

  21. The problem is that the camera deniers keep adding and subtracting zeroes from their figure for the number of cameras.

    This article also decries the horrible expenditure of public funds for London CCTV cameras, but on only 10,000 cameras (get your figures straight, Orwell fundamentalists!):
    http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/news/article-23412867-details/Tens+of+thousands+of+CCTV+cameras,+yet+80%25+of+crime+unsolved/article.do . The expenditure figures are also not high enough pay for a million units.

    If we take the 1000 crimes solved from the first article, my dear Watson, and combine it with the 10,000 camera figure, we get one crime solved for every ten cameras, per year!

  22. I may be missing out on some prologue here– what made the case that spending half a billion pounds on additional law enforcement was necessary in the first place?

  23. The UK is fast turning into Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.

    It needs to be said though that the cameras are not just there to solve crimes but also to prevent them.

    I feel safer walking down the street in the middle of the night with cameras present than without them. Funnily enough, I personally don’t really think they make much of a difference in preventing crime, but that’s hard to prove one way or the other.

    Most people I have talked to about this don’t seem to be opposed to them.

  24. do wealthy enclaves increase cachet by being CCTV free? Money has always mean immunity from the law, it’s rather the whole point of it.

Comments are closed.