Byline: DAVID TAYLOR
BRITAIN'S streets are now watched by about 40,000 publicly funded CCTV cameras costing more than pound sterling400 million - but a new study today reveals there is little scientific evidence to show they cut crime.
The analysis from criminal justice charity Nacro discloses that unpublished Home Office research found CCTV had only a "very small" impact on reducing offending. And the study says there is evidence that the money would be better used to improve street lighting, which has been shown to cut crime by 20 per cent.
Cameras had no measurable success in cutting crime on public transport and a "very small" impact in city centres and inner city estates. But they did seem to help reduce crime significantly in car parks.
Successive Tory and Labour governments have put huge faith in CCTV: three quarters of the Home Office's crime prevention budget was spent on cameras between 1996 and 1998, on the assumption CCTV "must work" and was "a cure-all", the report says.
Since 1994, the Government has spent pound sterling208 million on CCTV, matched by the same amount from councils. In 1990, there were just three publicly funded town-centre schemes with 100 cameras. By the end of this year, there will be around 500 schemes with 40,000 cameras.
Adding cameras owned by companies and individuals, it is estimated there are more than two million in use, filming the average city dweller around 500 times a week.
But today's report says: "Despite the boom in camera coverage and government funding, there has been very little substantive 'quality' evidence to suggest that CCTV works."
It concludes: "CCTV is not a panacea. As with all crime reduction measures, it should never be assumed that it will reduce crime regardless of the local environment."
Rachel Armitage of Nacro's crime and social policy unit reviewed all recent research and found CCTV was "not always as successful at reducing crime as it is claimed to be". Her work looks at the first details of an unpublished Home Office study of 24 camera schemes, six in car parks, four on public transport and 14 in city centres or council estates.
Six of the 14 city centre and estate schemes were found to have cut crime, but in two locations offending actually rose.
The overall crime fall in these areas was three per cent.
Two of the four public transport schemes cut crime, while one saw a rise.
"Overall, there was no statistically significant effect," the report found.
In car parks, five out of six schemes helped cut offending and crime was 45 per cent lower overall. …