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(Feature update 19/4/00)

Big Brother targets the poor

21 December 1999

[CCTV to target poor]

A massive extension of the city's spy-camera network is set to push into the most deprived residential areas and target the poor.

Top Council officers and the police are to decide which areas are to be first in line for the new cameras. But the Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnership has identified 3 areas, amongst the poorest in the city, as a starting point:

These will form the basis of a second round bid to the Governments 150 million CCTV scheme, which includes money for residential CCTV projects. It follows on a 1.3 million bid earlier this year to upgrade and extend the city centre spy camera network, which includes building a new control centre to monitor all the cameras in the district.

The plans mark a frightening escalation of the Councils mass surveillance system. Only 2 years ago councillors insisted that the prospect of putting such cameras into residential areas was unthinkable.

One of the earliest residential CCTV schemes was in Newcastles West End estate. There councillor Peter Thompson, the man behind the scheme, explained its purpose:

"It's to do with the kind of community you have there. You have a problem of loose families. Single mothers, men who drift around. There is a dislocation from normal expectations, from normal manners, if you like, a breakdown of basic rules and social codes.

"What do you do with working-class men who no longer have any possibility of a job and no means to earn self-respect? They have lost any sense that there are social boundaries. They are too poor, and too poorly educated, to take collective responsibility for their own problems. To some extent, I suppose, the cameras are a form of containment."

In Keighley the Council and the SRB project has already earmarked 92,000 to extend the CCTV system into Victoria Park.

It is likely the new residential systems will feed into a planned new super control room, based in Britannia House. The new control centre is part of the council's 1.3 million Home Office CCTV bid. 22 new cameras will be added to the City centre and the existing cameras upgraded. Private companies will be allowed to add their own. Maintaining the system will cost local ratepayers over 250,000 a year.

The systems in Keighley, Bingley and Shipley will be fed into the network, and a link provided for the police. This is a major escalation of the council's surveillance strategy, with the promise of more to follow.

Local Failure

The plans come as evidence mounts that the existing spy-camera systems have failed.

Crime figs - burglary

Crime figs - car crime

Bingley & Keighley: Source - student evaluation; 1995 from 1.1.95 to 31.12.95; 1997 from 1.4.97 to 31.3.98
Shipley: Source - Shipley Police Community Forum minutes 15/5/97 & 16/2/98; 1995 from 1.4.95 to 31.3.96; 1997 from 1.1.97 to 31.12.98.

Figures released by the police for car crime in the city's car parks show that the highest levels of car crime occur in those car parks currently covered by the council's CCTV systems. These include Vicar Lane (covered by 2 cameras), Westgate multi-storey (covered by 4) and Sharpe Street (with 1).

Crime figures from Airedale show that the CCTV systems in Bingley and Keighley, set up in 1996, also failed to deter crime.

Although crime has been falling annually throughout the region over the last 5 years, the drop in Bingley and Keighley has been even less than in comparable areas without cameras.

Figures show that the drop between 1995, before cameras were installed, and 1997, when they'd been running a year, compared unfavourable with the same figures for Shipley, which didn't have cameras until later.

National Failure

Meanwhile another major study confirms that CCTV cameras don't reduce crime and don't make people feel safer.

The study of Glasgows much hyped CCTV system was undertaken over a 2 year period for the Scottish Office by the country's leading CCTV expert, Prof Jason Ditton of Sheffield University.

Prof. Ditton said: "What we have been able to show is that CCTV didn't reduce crime - if anything it has increased - and it didn't reduce fear of crime. If anything there was a slight increase in anxiety."

"The cameras were so vastly overhyped as a magic bullet cure for everything when they were introduced, that we were all blinded to the fact that this was a small addition in police terms, but a rather large incursion in civil liberty terms."

Prof. Ditton called for a moratorium on new CCTV systems.

His views have been backed by most of the countries top crime experts, including Dr Clive Norris of Hull University, whose book "Surveillance, CCTV and Social Control" has become the major work on the subject. He said:

"In reality, they can make people feel more secure than they actually are. A lot of police and public confidence in the system is unfounded. Cameras are not very good at stopping violent crime and public disorder. Young men drinking tend not to be deterred by them. What worries some of us is where is all this surveillance leading.? What is being done with the information being gathered?"

Chasing the money

As the government announces a "beacon status" award for the local Crime and Disorder reduction Partnership, it seems that the main crime strategy employed is simply "chase the money". Although the government will provide the capital costs of the new spy-camera network, the cost of running and maintaining the systems will have to be found elsewhere. Since the areas targeted are already in receipt of various regeneration funds, this may help explain why they have been chosen.

What is certain is that other residential areas will then call for CCTV, fearing being left behind in the scramble for more and more security. The momentum for the eventual complete coverage of the Bradford area by the councils spy-camera network now seems unstoppable.

Deb Collett for Bradford TUC said: "The bubble is about to burst for CCTV. More research is coming through that completely undermines the whole venture and we urge Bradford Council to call an immediate halt to its plans to extend CCTV"

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See also: "If you're poor, they'll keep an eye on you" - the Newcastle scheme.

CDRP Report on Bid

Update; 13 July, 2000:

The 3 residential areas that were finally chosen were:

The bids will be submitted in August and will have to be prioritised, although the New Deal project already includes funding for the scheme.

Feasibility studies have already been completed on the New Deal and Little Germany schemes by consultants Mason Communications, but to date both boards refuse to release the reports to the public.

CCTV Links


Sites - an interactive map of all cameras in the Bradford District

CCTV Code of practice (as drafted for Shipley)

Campaigns: 1 in 12 Club calls for halt on CCTV's : Evaluation proposals : Bradford Trades Council "open access" proposals

KDIS Articles:

Media Clippings

Questions & Answers with Bradford Council....

10 reasons why CCTV is bad (Simon Davies, Director of Privacy International)

Faking It - How the Council's "evaluation" was rigged

The Failure of CCTV in Airedale

A Tale of Two Surveys

How CCTV helped catch a killer

Major new study confirms CCTV doesn't work

"I would never, ever live under that regime" - Darcus Howe on the Grangetown scheme



Link to Privacy International

Link to UK Public CCTV Surveillance Regulation Campaign website (Excellent!)

Live images from Belfast CCTV (courtesy of the RUC)

Home Office 1999 funding round.

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