Trees and CCTV: the final chapter

Here's a footnote to the longest-running saga in Brockley Central's short life. Lewisham Council's CCTV manager Anne Sharp has been in touch to let BC readers know that the CCTV cameras on Lewisham Way and by St John's Station are now working properly, following the felling of a tree in Lewisham College car park (as previously covered at exhaustive length on BC).

To those who attended the meeting with Lewisham Council officers last month it was fairly clear that it wasn't a particularly healthy tree and the situation was more complex than we had originally thought. Having said that, the recent national debate over CCTV cameras throws up some wider questions about their positioning and usefulness in Brockley. But if any cameras should be working in our area, then it's those by St John's Station. So do BC readers concur that we can chalk this saga up as having a happy ending?


Anonymous said...

Britain has more CCTV cameras than any other country in Europe. But Mr Neville is reported in The Guardian as saying that more training was needed for officers who often avoided trawling through CCTV images “because it’s hard work”.

That's your problem - the public sector only attracts people who can't be arsed. Police should be privatised - that would give it some balls.

andy pandy pudding & pie said...

hmm privatised police? what ever next? Privatised courts? Oh, thats already happening in the US..

JPM said...

The interesting thing about the claims made about CCTV (I have some around my property) it appears to show what happened not what IS happening. WHO IS WATCHING?

The most ridiculous example of this has been to show footage of the 7/7 bombers scouting their location prior to their hideous crime. CCTV did not prevent that, and it will not prevent a host of other crimes.

Indeed can it be said to be 'closed circuit' when no one is watching, only recording for later release on television? It's fly on a post TV.

At the Tesco's cashpoint the other day a rather large bloke with a can of Superbrew doorstepped me asking for - demanding?- money (with menaces). I gave him a verbal dressing and told him he should not be accosting people at cashpoints. All the while a CCTV recorded this encounter, not the first, but to what end? (So much for the alcohol-free zone by the way.)

Anonymous said...


Whilst it may not stop crimes as they happen, you'll appreciate that the video footage, used retrospectively, provides fantastically damning evidence against the assailant. Its much better than having to use your word against theirs in a court!

The only reason this couldn't be used against the 7/7 bombers is that, well, they're dead now - but it does mean that the perpetrators can be properly identified.

JPM said...


Read the link that has been supplied by Nick and Jon to see that this is not so.

This is what it says, in part:

"Detective Chief Inspector Mick Neville said it was a “fiasco” that only 3 per cent of street robberies in London were solved using CCTV."

Mr Neville, who heads the Visual Images, Identifications and Detections Office (Video) unit, told the Security Document World Conference...

"Billions of pounds have been spent on kit, but no thought has gone into how the police are going to use the images and how they will be used in court.”

“It’s been an utter fiasco: only 3 per cent of crimes were solved by CCTV."

Think of that figure, three percent, in the most surveilled nation on earth?

So why do we continue to use it?

A search of the business interests of MPs and senior police and security officers would not go amiss. You may find a lot on non-executive directorships in the CCTV industry. Nice little earner, paranoia.

Having said that, a study into how many drivers have been fined (taxed) through the use of CCTV images would be of huge interest.

Anonymous said...

Big time Lewisham Way Criminals Finally Caught on CCTV Footage

Anonymous said...

I don't understand - are you saying you'd rather the 3% weren't brought to justice?

Tamsin said...

I think the point is that bringing only 3% to justice is disproportionate to the extent of the investment.

The Telegraph Hill Centre had problems a couple of years back and investigated having cctv fitted and were advised (I think with a great deal of honesty by the company itself) that it was not worth it as with so many restrictions (and rightly so IMHO) any images could not really be of much use in any prosecution.

Sian said...

@ anonymous 10:06, I'm assuming you're deliberately misinterpreting Mr Neville's comment about "hard work"? As in being technically difficult and requiring training, rather than your suggestion that "people can't be arsed". Screening footage to spot a specific event or individual and then tracing the events before and after across a CCTV network requires particular technical skills. Done properly, like at the Met in the case of the 7/7 bombers, you can piece together the whole story. How do you think the police managed to catch all of the 21/7 would-be bombers the same week? And why do people only remember when it goes wrong and rarely when the police do well, like in the 21/7?

Anonymous said...

The point is that a senior policeman has cast doubt on the cost benefit of CCTV as a crime solving tool.

Only the most extreme cases merit the time required to sit through untold hours of mundane footage.

Live observation by an operator means one person observing many screens at a time. How far does that budget stretch for what must rank as a thoroughly boring job. How much effect does it have on the behaviour of the mad and the bad who cause crime? The answer seems to be: not much.

So we are wasting money on something that makes the public imagine the authorities are in control. That is politically very important. People vote on law and order issues.

I feel reassured that the personal liberty issues are much less significant given the enormous expense of retrieving any data. It is a system that does not scale up economically because it requires human observation to make sense of the images. Computers can't do that. They can, however pick out a car number.

More insiduous is the development of number plate recognition systems. This will be used to tax or fine car users and track car movements. That is automated and can generate revenue. The congestion zone and speed camera technology led the way. A combined tax collection and crime detection tool.

You won't find policemen complaining about that. I'm sure they can't wait. Nor ,indeed, will all the other authorities keen to charge the motorist. I don't doubt that Lewisham will at the head of the queue. Expect to see new banks of Auto Number Plate Recognition cameras appearing by the roadside soon.

This CCTV/Tree business is a mere bagatelle.

Sian said...

As in any debate, it is important not to entangle the issues. CCTV that is recorded but not viewed in real time is of great value in investigations into rape, abduction, murder, terrorism, robbery, assault and all other crimes which take place in public spaces. The fact that it is not viewed unless it is used in such an investigation is a key fact in protecting civil liberties. And, although having rows of people observing banks of monitors in real time might sound like it could prevent "real-time crime", it is almost certainly a step too far for the UK's tolerance level, and would be economically unviable. The fact that the law enforcement agencies judge that they do not yet make the best use of CCTV is not in itself a reason to switch off every CCTV camera. Instead, it is more likely an argument for better training. And thus we come back to Mr Neville's original statement. And remember that the police do not benefit directly as an organisation from road traffic fines, so I doubt they will breaking open the champers just yet at the licence plate technology.

Doktor Jon said...

Whilst the debate about CCTV effectiveness has meandered along for some years now, the inescapable fact is the 3% figure mentioned in the Press is symptomatic of something fairly simple, but rarely mentioned.

The established method for deploying and using CCTV cameras for Public Space Surveillance, is inherently inefficient because .... the systems have not been correctly profiled ... end of ....!!

This fact was documented well over a decade ago, but for various reasons, many of which are glaringly obvious, the deployment of video surveillance has continued in a naive and untested fashion, rather than to put it bluntly, the correct tools being used for the job.

Will the situation improve anytime soon; we continue to live in hope, but in the meantime, 3% efficiency is probably slightly better than I would have predicted for many Town Centres.

JPM said...

Sian, CCTV useage in the fight against 'crime' should be a tool for pro-active policing - not just the recording of a victim for later use on Crimewatch.

You suggest that there is 'great value' in recorded CCTV as a mopping up tool, whilst ignoring the 3% figure, and also not wanting to 'entangle' the absolute negation of CCTV as a real-time crime-fighting preventative tool, which is what it was introduced as.

I feel certain that if a person was raped (victim), abducted (victim), in the process of being murdered (victim), committing a terrorist act (perp), robbery (victim/perp), assaulted (victim) and all other crimes (of which they are victims)that they might hope that any publicly monitored place may prevent the crime, not bare witness to such an event.

Of course one can talk of it as a tool in the armoury of crime past, but don't let it overshadow the need for such in real time.

Brockley Nick said...


Tamsin said...

Presumably the previous post advertising CCTV cameras will be removed - but in the meantime can I share a thought taken from a tea-towel I bought at the Nunhead Cemetery Open Day a couple of years back "The tree which moves some to tears of joy, is in the eyes of others only a green thing which stands in the way. As a man is, so he sees."

But I take the point about the tree being on its last legs anyway and agree - it seems a suitable compromise and at least the furore got local people consulted.

Edward, cctv designer said...

The most funny thing the CCTV is inefficient. Here is an article from Independent.

Brockley Central Label Cloud