CCTV and the London Riots
Tim Montgomerie, editor of Conservative Home has a thing about CCTV and how useful it has been in the London Riots. Goading liberals (like me) who have reservations about CCTV he yesterday said on Twitter:
TimMontgomerie For all the anti-CCTV civil libertarians... http://twitpic.com/63mmyh
I don't accept this and in fact think that what has happened shows just how useless CCTV is. If I owned a shop in London I would want the Police to protect it and stop it getting smashed up not rely on the fact that they might "catch" the culprits months later and bring them to "justice".
For days at the start of the riots the Met Police appeared to adopt a "stand off" tactic literally watching as people smashed up, burned and looted businesses. Now I know the police are damned if they do and damned if they don't but there is considerable evidence that many frontline police officers were unhappy with this and wanted to do more to stop the trouble and arrest the culprits there and then.
In part I think this tactic is influenced by CCTV and the attitude that the offenders can be caught later. In any case it begs the question of what the police are for and what people want them to do.
Last night many more police were on the streets and tactics had changed. No more standing around watching but active and robust intervention to stop the trouble. What people wanted.
If I owned one of these shops I might, probably months in the future, get a letter from the Met saying someone had been convicted for damaging my shop after hours of detective time (that could have been used to deal with other crime) and a lock jammed court system had finally done its job.
No wonder many decided to order baseball bats on Amazon instead.
I hope that the Government immediately drop their plans to reduce police numbers and also the cuts to the probation, youth justice and courts systems.
The danger of CCTV is it becomes like an air bag in a car which doesn't make the car safer if all you do is drive faster. With CCTV the danger is you think that you can rely on the CCTV to catch people later so do not take the same care stopping them when it is happening.
At the end of the day CCTV did absolutely nothing to deter the riots and many of the people involved will not be caught. I for one would prefer the money spent on more real live police officers.
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