It’s becoming increasingly fashionable to knock the use of CCTV as if it is inherently evil. Bizarrely – since I would consider myself to be a strong supporter of civil liberties – I’ve found myself defending its use again and again.
This is partly because they have concentrated on the number of cameras, rather than how they are used – I would contend that Wandsworth’s network of professionally operated and carefully regulated cameras are not a problem, problems occur with small, private installations in which there is no control or oversight of the operator.
The council highlighted some of the successes from the CCTV network over Christmas and New Year recently, when it helped stop a suicide, rescue a man who had fallen into the Thames, guided police to developing problems and helped track a suspect who was then arrested.
But even since then two court cases have illustrated the value of properly used CCTV. First, the case of Aubrey Appiah, who was tracked on the council’s CCTV network and the evidence used to secure a conviction for burglary. The second, and more tragic, was the murder of Paul Peters, in which CCTV evidence was used to disprove his grandson’s story that he was asleep at the time of the murder.
Regulated and controlled CCTV can, and does, continue to play a key role in making Wandsworth safer – whatever the sensationalist headline writers would like to think.