Britain After Dark

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Britons are far more in favour of closed circuit television (CCTV) to fight street crime as opposed to motoring offences, an ntl:Telewest Business survey carried out by YouGov revealed.

With one CCTV camera for every 14 people in the UK, Britons are caught on camera at least once every five minutes. Nevertheless, the majority (88 per cent) of the population are happy for CCTV to be used to fight crime.

However, people are more ambivalent when it comes to using CCTV to catch drivers committing motoring offences. 58 per cent were in favour of monitoring car tax evaders, whilst 54 per cent lent their support to its use against speeding offenders.

A gender gap is in evidence as more women than men are supportive of CCTV use on the roads. 82 per cent of women believed it should be used to help catch drunk drivers, in comparison with 74 per cent of men. Following the introduction of 24 hour drinking laws, more people than ever are making their way home after dark and the importance of security monitoring has risen accordingly.

Advances in security monitoring such as CCTV over the internet (IPCCTV) aids the authorities by introducing real-time policing. High-resolution images and video can be sent directly to devices in patrol cars and to officers on the beat helping them to react to incidents more quickly.

Another application of IPCCTV, automated number plate recognition (ANPR), triggers an alert whenever a stolen or wanted car is spotted on the road. Information on the vehicle and alleged offence are sent instantaneously to a police monitoring centre or motorway patrols, allowing for a fast apprehension of suspects.

"ANPR is not, nor has any connection with, speed enforcement as often has been reported," said Inspector Andrew Hamilton, head of ANPR unit, Devon and Cornwall Constabulary. "Contrary to popular belief, ANPR is never used to monitor speeding cars. It is about targeting and denying criminals the use of the roads, leaving law-abiding citizens to go about their business."

While Britons are quite happy for digital CCTV to be used to prevent car related crimes such as car theft, driving offences are much lower on their priority list. Eighty two per cent of respondents said CCTV should be used for tracking stolen cars, but only 30 per cent supported its use in enforcing the Congestion Charge.

In addition:

  • 76 per cent of respondents believed CCTV should be used to find missing people
  • 70 per cent were in favour of using it for crowd control
  • 79 per cent would employ it to prevent shoplifting
  • 70 per cent – to track drivers leaving petrol stations without paying

The Britain After Dark study, commissioned by ntl:Telewest Business, polled more than 2,000 UK residents about their opinions on CCTV.

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