The British Security Industry Association (BSIA) has issued a research report entitled: ‘The Picture is Not Clear: How Many CCTV Surveillance Cameras Are There in the UK?’
The most obvious conclusion of the 50-page BSIA study is that the number of cameras operated by private companies and organisations far outstrips those of the police and local authorities, perhaps by a factor of 70 to 1. As a result, several issues are raised by the research.
There are more privately-owned cameras than public
• The majority of CCTV cameras in the UK are not Government funded
• Contrary to popular opinion, the majority of CCTV cameras in the UK are privately-owned and not in the public space
• This illustrates the discrepancy between the public perception of ‘Big Brother’ State surveillance and the reality of thousands of private businesses trying to protect their properties and livelihood
• Evidence to solve crimes is often provided by private companies, but there is no regulation of these surveillance systems
• Cameras cannot be simply screwed to a wall and expected to work properly… Without expert installation, the resulting footage can be poor quality (which is why regulation should cover private space surveillance and drive quality standards)
Regulation should cover privately-owned cameras
• The BSIA supports further regulation of CCTV systems and the proper use of video evidence
• Regulation will encourage the adoption of Best Practice among security installers while driving standards of system selection, installation and operation
• Regulation will promote the importance of high quality systems with proper installation and set-up
As an organisation that represents the professional security industry, the BSIA hopes that the debate opened up by this report – together with further studies – will increase the overall professionalism and quality of the CCTV industry and the systems installed.
Comment from the Trade Association
Simon Adcock, chairman of the BSIA’s CCTV Section, said: “This study represents the most comprehensive and up-to-date survey undertaken into the number of CCTV cameras in use in the UK. Since there’s no single reliable source of data no number can ever be held as truly accurate. However, the middle of our range suggests that there are around five million cameras in operation.”
Adcock continued: “A key finding of our research is that the proportion of cameras controlled by local Government is around 1 in 70. While welcome, the Government’s current regulation will initially cover only a tiny proportion of CCTV systems, and these are already the most professionally run and tightly controlled schemes.”
The BSIA’s CCTV Section chairman went on to state: “Private companies are actually funding the majority of the nation’s CCTV on the basis that it delivers a clear return on investment, and this is where the majority of footage used by the police is sourced. Effective CCTV schemes are an invaluable source of crime detection and evidence for the police. For example, in 2009, 95% of Scotland Yard murder cases used CCTV footage as evidence. The public are supportive of CCTV, with 62% wanting to see more in their local area. It’s important that we retain that trust and confidence.”
In conclusion, Adcock explained: “CCTV surveillance is a highly specialised discipline. The real danger to the reputation of the technology comes from non-specialist installers who are largely unaware aware of current Best Practice or standards. The BSIA is therefore fully supportive of appropriate regulation to ensure that schemes are designed to be effective, and that CCTV is only used for appropriate purposes.”
Pauline Norstrom – vice-chairman of the BSIA’s CCTV Section – added: “There is a popular misconception that the camera population in the UK is owned by the Government. The BSIA statistics set the record straight once and for all. It is private businesses who own the material camera population, not the Government. Day to day, these cameras are not available to the Government and law enforcement agencies. They are busy working to protect their owner’s premises.”
Norstrom continued: “It’s only when a major crime occurs that the police service asks business owners if they have captured any footage of criminals passing through the private cameras’ field of view. Without the help of businesses investing in their privately owned systems, the police would only have access to the one publically-owned camera per 1’000 head of population. Far too few to be useful and certainly not the ‘Surveillance Society’ which could be portrayed.”
CCTV expert Norstrom said: “As so many cameras are operated for the purposes of securing business premises, and the BSIA represents the private security industry sector, the Trade Association has worked tirelessly to introduce standards and guidelines for CCTV camera operators to ensure that evidence export is managed according to Home Office and police guidelines now contained in the British Standard BS 8495.”
Norstrom feels that, with so many new entrants to the CCTV market attempting to capitalise on the ever-growing demand from businesses to protect their properties, there’s a need for regulation of the minimum standard of system design, installation and image quality recorded by these systems. This will also ensure that the private security industry continues to be able to provide high quality CCTV evidence to the police for the greater good of the public.
“The BSIA is leading the way in providing this guidance and Best Practice advice to owners, designers, manufacturers and installers of CCTV systems,” added Norstrom, “so as to ensure that minimum standards of quality are met by responsible, high quality organisations.”
Copies of the new report are available direct from the BSIA (www.bsia.co.uk) (telephone: 0845 389 3889)