Scotland Yard: CCTV In Every UK Home

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The UK’s most senior police officer, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, has said that people should consider fitting CCTV in their homes to trap burglars. 

The Daily Mail reports:

And he called on families and businesses to install cameras at eye level – to exploit advances in facial recognition technology.

But privacy campaigners condemned the Metropolitan Police Commissioner’s suggestion.

‘The proposals on increasing the amount of privately owned CCTV cameras are quite frankly Orwellian and risk turning members of the public into an extension of the police,’ said Renate Samson of Big Brother Watch.

‘Private CCTV is completely unregulated. Recommending greater use of CCTV to gather more images of people’s faces – often innocent people’s faces – undermines the security of each and every one of us.’

She pointed out that a House of Commons committee had on Saturday released a report on the problems with facial recognition.

Labour MP Andrew Miller said: ‘We were alarmed to discover that the police have begun uploading custody photographs of people to the police national database and using facial recognition software without any regulatory oversight. Some of the people had not even been charged.’

Sir Bernard said most cameras were mounted high to keep them out of harm’s way and to give an overview of a crime area.

He was speaking after Beverley Turner, wife of Olympic rower James Cracknell, challenged him on LBC Radio on whether CCTV could be used to catch burglars.

Her house was burgled while she and her children were sleeping and footage from a neighbour’s CCTV camera was too grainy to identify the thieves.

When Miss Turner asked if more cameras were needed in homes and businesses, Sir Bernard replied: ‘Yes. We’ve got a strategy to encourage people to move their cameras down to eye level.

‘Facial recognition software has got better, and we can now apply it to images of burglaries, and then compare them with images we take when we arrest people.

‘What we need to be able to do is to be able to compare that photograph with the images we have of people committing a crime.

‘Taking the tops of their heads is not that helpful for facial recognition which relies on the eyes and the configuration of the area around the nose and the mouth. So we’re trying to get people to, ideally, add a camera at face level.

‘If anyone listening has a business, think about installing a new one – they’re relatively cheap. If you can’t buy one, could you think about moving it?’ Covert cameras disguised as clocks, clothes hooks, mirrors and even thermometers can be bought for as little as £40.

They have been responsible for an avalanche of ‘peeping Tom’ prosecutions involving footage taken in changing rooms, offices and toilets.

Many bookmakers use them to identify robbers or fraudsters.The Green peer Baroness Jones said it was wrong to encourage householders to follow suit. ‘It threatens to undermine people’s confidence and inject fear in the place where they should feel most secure,’ she said.

‘I’m not sure it will make anyone feel any safer and the use of facial recognition technology remains largely untested and unproven.’

Research from the College of Policing last week revealed CCTV only modestly cuts crimes such as vandalism and car theft and is useless in stopping violence.

Experts said better street lighting and neighbourhood watch schemes were more valuable.