A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, and the Labour Party - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

More CCTV needed

One of the good things about being a local councillor is that it means you get to hear on a regular basis how things look from the perspective of ordinary voters who don't read blogs, watch Newsnight or write letters to the Guardian.

Hence the following comments from people at a Tenants Association meeting on a large estate in my ward last night:

"Oh Luke, was that you on the front page of the Hackney Gazette? We've all been looking at it and saying "that's our Luke"".
"We knew it was you because you were wearing a tie and you almost always wear a tie"
"If you are on the front page does that mean you will be our next MP?"
"There's too much Labour competition here - you should be an MP down in south London, there's lots of nice places down there."
"We never realised you were a politician as well as our councillor."

I thought the last comment was actually a rather nice distinction to make.
I don't think their current MP Meg Hillier needs to lose much sleep.

And so after giving me some career advice we got down to the business of trying to get play areas improved, dog mess bins and new benches installed from the Environmental Improvement Budget, windows upgraded under the Decent Homes programme, strengthened security doors to keep the local druggies out, and - take note David Davis - a request for covert CCTV in the lifts to catch the charming individual who is regularly taking a dump in them between floors.
Presumably libertarians would consider the latter a gross invasion of the liberty of the individual to use lifts as public toilets, as enshrined in Magna Carta ("no powere shall ye Kinge have to watcheth a manne through anyee CCTV system invented 1,000 years hence performigge ye bodilee functions in anyee place, nor shall anyee lette or hindrence be putte uponne ye rightes of barones, knightes, burghers, serfs or curls to performeth suche functions").


Anonymous Albert Shanker said...

In my experience people want CCTV when it makes them safe, but not if it gives them a ticket for doing 50mph in a street outside a rpimary school. A lot of the anti-CCTV noise is coming from the pro-car brigade / Tom Conti types.

9:45 am, June 24, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

David Davis is mad - don't understand why Luke keeps responding to his agenda. Tories setting the pace again...?

9:58 am, June 24, 2008

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Stopping speeding makes both drivers and pedestrians - particularly children crossing roads - safer.

10:14 am, June 24, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually CCTV don't issue speeding tickets - speed cameras do that!

They do, however perform many other tasks, some traffic related which are very useful.

12:49 pm, June 24, 2008

Anonymous stephen said...

The debate about CCTV is whether it is an effective way of deterring crime and whether it is a useful evidential tool. The problem is that it often seems to be neither. Given that people appear to think that they are *less* safe now than they were 30 years ago - regardless of the facts of the matter - clearly CCTV does not make people feel safer. It's a shibboleth of our times. It's of little use but no one has the nerve to be more selective about where it used for fear of being accused by some muppet of being 'soft on crime'. Ho hum. I suppose it's better than burning the money we waste on CCTV as that would only add to our carbon footprint.

4:52 pm, June 24, 2008

Blogger Miller 2.0 said...

"a request for covert CCTV in the lifts to catch the charming individual who is regularly taking a dump in them between floors."

Once again I oppose this on a socialist basis. No security employee should have to deal with this. ;o)

5:43 pm, June 24, 2008

Anonymous stephen said...

I believe the human rights of the shitter come first.

I also believe witnesses in trials involving gangsters and murderers should not be granted anonymity.

Down with CCTV and down with the DNA database!

8:26 pm, June 24, 2008

Blogger Darrell G said...

Stephen made some very useful points but missed out the fact that the 'shitter' is one individual and frankly it beggars sense to me that candid camera is needed to catch him...frankly i would think detection and catching in this case would be relatively simple...

Sacrificing the privacy of the rest of the citizenery to catch one individual shows how wrong headed the proponents of these things are....a good example is anti-terror legislation a good 3/4(maybe 4/4) of which was never needed....7/7 was primarily caused by the failure of security services...but no, our wonderful Labour government thinks the cause was surely the idiot state which failed to prevent it in the first place (when it could have) doesnt have enough power...

10:33 pm, June 24, 2008

Anonymous Lee Griffin said...

"Stopping speeding makes both drivers and pedestrians - particularly children crossing roads - safer."

Stopping dangerous driving makes everyone safer, not speeding. This is the distinction Labour and the police head bods don't wish to make because, unfortunately, criminalising bad driving with camera's isn't as easy as speeding...which can be done perfectly safely.

In fact most accidents happen where there is a lot of crossed routes of traffic as well as high build up of traffic. Motorways account for less than 10% (figures from 2001) of all road accidents despite the speeds on them being significantly higher than on any other road.

As for CCTV in general, it has been said to be little more than worthless in preventing crime, and has been said since at least 2002 up until again this year, by the police themselves. More recently they've even said that it doesn't even help solve the majority of the crimes they're supposed to.

There's an argument here for both sides that says CCTV is therefore not as necessary as people like you make out, firstly because those against CCTV camera's can say that they are pointless and only serve to spy on us, not actually protect us (as they are not)...and secondly because people for CCTV camera's should be saying that if they're not working what's the point in having them?

11:19 pm, June 24, 2008

Blogger Merseymike said...

CCTV has its place. I worked to see it introduced in a part of Liverpool's city centre and I think it has been helpful. However, much of the CCTV available is very poor quality which won;t help in making people feel confident in its use.

I agree with Davis over the 42 days but I'm not particularly sympathetic to his view on either CCTV or DNA. I think they are very different issues and I am not prepared to be dragooned into a campaign which I don't in total support

You can be opposed to 42 days but think that CCTV and a DNA database is a good idea.

11:27 pm, June 24, 2008

Blogger Reversepsychology said...

With already more than 20% of the CCTV on this planet condensed onto one tiny Island, don't you think New Labour are going a tad overboard in regards to this issue?

George Orwells, Nineteen Eighty four, was in fact a work of fiction.

He didn't expect New Labour to turn it into the official manefesto of party policy, for the coming Century..

Yeah-Yeah, It gives the prolotariate a false sense of security - I know your arguments oh so well.... But if thats the case, then why aren't the other Nations of your beloved E.U. implementing CCTV with such pedantic fervour??

Its a wonder that our forfathers managed to live and survive without New Labours nanny state!!

How did they ever manage to exist without either you, or your authoritaian, CCTV big brother Society I wonder???

1:45 am, June 25, 2008

Blogger Toby said...

That people want CCTV to help reduce crime is irrefutable, particularly in close-nit communities such as housing estates. The fact that our current CCTV doesn't reduce over-all crime is also irrefutable.

In order for CCTV to be a crime reducer, rather than simply provide evidence to convict past crime, would - we can now reasonably assume to be true with 14 people per CCTV camera - involve total surveillance.

And that, my friend, is why people think you're nuts!

Take a holiday and visit housing estates abroad with similar housing, poverty, and hatred of crime. What you won't see is CCTV, nor, if you talk to the locals, will you hear of a fear of crime (and the communal lifts remain both piss and poo free). I know this to be true because I live in just such an estate. It blows my visitors from the UK away every time!

CCTV is not the answer, and the sooner Councillors realised this the better. It's an easy 'solution' which I too (when a Councillor) agreed to, but the evidence and new experience has shown me to be wrong then, just as you are wrong now.

We need to engender a return to neighbourhoods, where your neighbour (or the old lady across the way) looks out for your welfare, as you look out for theirs. Not in a vigilante manner, but in the collegiate manner which we seem to have lost.

Clearly it's easier to stick a few cameras up to record the crime as it happens, but trust me, it'll no good in the whole scale of things.

3:33 am, June 25, 2008

Anonymous rodney pickenstall said...

I wonder whether these incidents only occur while councillors are paying a fleeting PR visit to the land of the underclass. After all, most public loos have been closed down and I doubt that many of Hackney's councillors would want to knock on a door and ask to use a tenant's facilities.

9:21 am, June 25, 2008

Anonymous stephen said...

Of course I didn't write the second bogus remark attributed to me. Obviopusly the person who wrote it has so little faith in their ability to make a good case for CCTV that they have to misrepresent mine.

11:04 am, June 25, 2008

Anonymous tim f said...

I wonder how many people reference Orwell's 1984 who've never actually read it.

11:23 am, June 25, 2008

Anonymous James said...

I thought Luke's post was very interesting.

His argument for CCTV is made using two strategies. The first is a claim to know the true voice of the real people who are to be distinguished from the fake people who read the Guardian. This claim is made in the first sentence and then both verified and reinforced by a long passage about how much Luke's constituents love and admire him. He doesn't suggest that he is one of the true and real people but that they love him and he knows how they think.

The second is a non-sequitur. Luke relates an anecdote about something horrible and links it to a need for CCTV without giving any reason for thinking the connection necessary – he justifies it negatively by referring to people who would disagree with it and reinforces this with gratuitous mockery of an important part of British history.

The argument rests, then, on a piece of populism (in the technical sense - where one presents oneself as the embodiment of the will of the people and the opponent of those who undermine them) and - somewhat ironically - on the implication that persons who know and care about UK history are silly.

Often populisms oppose a ruling class of some kind, the rich and powerful, but here Luke's populism is more like that of the American republicans: the bad ruling class are the slightly liberal and those educated enough to know and care about their national history and who are committed to ideals (such as rights, liberty, equality etc.) that can be portrayed as abstract in contrast to the real things that real people are said care about. This obscures the fact the Guardian readers have not been in power for the last eleven years. Luke’s people have.

All of which has little to do with the actual problem of crime and the kind of anti-social uses of lifts Luke claims to care about.

Toby - who comments above - provides the elements of a coherent and substantive argument by proposing that we consider the wider social failure that seems to make CCTV necessary. Luke (and this is very much the nature of populism in general but of Blairite new Labour populism in particular) doesn't actually have a people-centered but a state-centered solution. Luke does not consider the wider failure of community and how we might actually help communities revive and manage themselves. This - as Luke's post indicated - is because Luke likes the people to like him and wants them to be reliant on him. They need him to get CCTV for them – which is why he likes it. If he were to work out with them how they could take back control of their community for themselves then he would not get all the credit and would soon not be needed.

It seems likely that the lift-shitter is either a child or a very damaged adult. It perhaps would not take long to work out just a few possible culprits and then to consider how to address it as a community. This might remind the tenants association that have power themselves and can do things for themselves and do not need to ask their council for them.

As long as Labour Party representatives continue to build their thinking around internal left-sectarianism (i.e. bashing the liberals, the Guardian readers, the intellectuals) and a presumption in favour of centralized state solutions, they will continue to fail in finding real solutions to problems and will weaken their own political tradition.

I say all this with sincerity and not as a slur against Luke or anyone else.

12:44 pm, June 25, 2008

Blogger robr said...

The craming of CCTV on all corners of this country has done little to cut and solve crime.
The police don't see muny benefits, with only 3% of violent crime solved by CCTV.
How often do we read about the CCTV tapes not working (see Charles de Menezes).
Call me old fashioned but I prefer to see police on the streets, trying to solve crime. This is how New York turned the city from a no go danger hole into the most safe city in North America.
Boris Johnson is absolutely right to spend money on bringing in more transport saftey officers and banning booze on public transport.
You realise how bad things are in Labour Circles when Boris Johnson is is more in touch we real people than the few remaining labour die hards.

1:50 pm, June 25, 2008

Anonymous Ted Harvey said...

James said;
"As long as Labour Party representatives continue to build their thinking around internal left-sectarianism (i.e. bashing the liberals, the Guardian readers, the intellectuals) and a presumption in favour of centralized state solutions, they will continue to fail in finding real solutions to problems and will weaken their own political tradition."

There really has been a slowly growing unattractive tendency hereabouts to go for the unthinking, knee-jerk bashing of anyone who doesn't agree with anything the Government decrees on anyhting.

3:32 pm, June 25, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...


Don't bother picking holes in Luke's sub-sixth form sophistry or exposing the non-sequiturs, logical fallacies and other nonsense. It will take up far too much of your time.

4:46 pm, June 25, 2008

Blogger Merseymike said...

Toby: I am afraid that what you hope for simply isn't going to happen on a large scale in urban areas. The privatisation of home life has seen to that and I see no reason to assume that is going to change.

In addition, CCTV s most effective in city centre and commercial areas in any case.

I do find that this conservative nostalgia which inspires a lot of Davis' views is so far from reality. Listening to him yesterday, it was clear enough that his ideal is the small town or village where everyone knows each other. Personally, I would rather slit my throat than live in a village or a small town - we need realistic solutions for urban problems and I don't think nosy neighbours is one of them. The Tory tendency to be out of touch with urban areas is once again visible for all to see.

6:26 pm, June 25, 2008

Anonymous Rich said...

CCTV doesn't prevent crime Luke and that is well known. What we need are more real police officers and not half wits dressed up as police officers called community wardens or officers.

Since Labour came to power we have seen a massive growth in community wardens and the use of electronic policing. I have no respect for either.

Yes stopping speeding makes our roads safer but so far there is no evidence to suggest that cameras reduce accidents. You rarely see cameras on residential streets and most of them appear on main roads best positioned to catch the average motorist doing 34 mph in a 30 or 45 in a 40. Why do our motorways now have average speed cameras positioned when you can safely travel at 80 mph when not busy and conditions allow.

Those that speed know where the cameras are or use electronics to tell them where they are. These are the people using our roads as race tracks and the only way to catch them is to use police and not cameras. Most motorists do not intentionally break the speed limits, but most drivers now have points. Something seriously wrong with your whole argument I feel.

As for CCTV in Nottingham they are now being used to catch parking violations or if you accidentally breach a bus lane. This is a joke. A recent news article in a Birmingham paper told how a individual was beaten to death while being watched by a CCTV operative. No police to attend the incident.

Give me police any day and lots of them. They use discretion with respect to motoring offences and keep our streets safe.

Councils need to be down sized and all their powers removed. They are costly and too big. It's time to strip down red tape and get down to doing the work rather than sitting behind a desk.

Labour is finished and their social experiment has failed.

11:10 pm, June 25, 2008

Blogger Merseymike said...

Think thats a rather silly, party-political view. CSO's are not going to be replaced by fully-fledged officers by any other party. I think they have their place but it is limited - for example, they work well in the town centre in the daytime and also in more comfortable middle class areas but I do not think they are a lot of helkp in terms of the night-time economy nor in tough urban residential areas.

CCTV and speed cameras are entirely different things and should not be banded together. The popint is that so often a response is judged as '1 size fits all' when this is far from the case. CCTV is popular and is certainly called for by communities both of identity and geography - but it isn't a panacea and it works well in some areas and not in others.

To have the sort of level of policing needed to keep watch over whole areas is just not feasible. Get real. The New York example is such a red herring - what actually happened is that crime has been driven out of tourist Manhattan and into Queens and Brooklyn. It has been displaced not removed.

As for local authorities, most of their powers have already been removed - and certainly the police are becoming more centralised with the use of specialist forces and so on. However, I would like to know exactly what the alternative is to local councils you are suggesting - I certainly don't want the private sector taking a larger role in these matters, and the alternative is central government....no doubt the BNP would have their own ideas, Rich, which you are in fact insidiously promoting. Don't know why Luke is naive enough not to see it.

12:25 pm, June 26, 2008

Anonymous Rich said...

I wouldn't want the private sector anywhere near local authorities, which is exactly my point. Most of the speed camera partnerships are virtually private companies....therefore there is a need to make money.

Local Authorities are virtually private sector companies at least most of the work they do is done by private contractors. Not everything can or should make money and the quicker government learns this the better. They actually might save money is they simply just got on with the job rather than forcing nonsense KPI's and productivity. My company has a number of public sector contracts all of which run at a loss or less than 5% profit because of the nonsense KPIs we are forced to monitor.

People think CCTV makes them safer but it doesn't. Talk to an experienced bobby and they will tell the truth. We pay more than enough tax to warrant more police on the beat.

I'm not against speed cameras but I am against stealth taxation which is what is really going off. These partnerships are businesses and have no KPIs linked to reducing road deaths but at least 7 linked to revenue and speed camera growth.

7:40 pm, June 26, 2008

Blogger Merseymike said...

Rich: I served 4 years on the police authority and am involved in police liaison. You are quite simply wrong in saying that the police think that CCTV has no place. They use it widely and here on Merseyside it has been successful. However, it isn't useful in every situation and is not the panacea some claim it to be. But it does have its place and I would be very much opposed to not taking advantage of such technology particularly in city centres.

'Police on the beat' simply do not work in this respect - you can't put police permanently in so many places unless you are prepared to pay a lot more in tax. Public services cost.

Speed cameras are an entirely different issue.

11:11 pm, June 26, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have got some experience of Police work and CCTV - based on being in a police force since 1989 with I suppose about 300-400 Friday / Sat nights working in a busy Town Centre with numerous clubs and bars, and a full CCTV system since 1996. CCTV does work in some respects. Clearly it isn't a deterrent to most violence - I've seen fights kick off with police units parked right next to the idiots, so a camera on a pole 5 m above their heads isn't going to deter it. What CCTV can do is enable several good things, assuming the other parts of the necessary apparatus are in place. It can reduce injuries by getting a quicker police response. It can identify who started the fight before police arrive, and enable more accurate charging. It can reduce not guilty pleas at court and hence save costs. What it doesn't do is displace violent crime to other areas. For other crimes like domestic burglary it doesn't work directly. Commercial burglary may be displaced out I suppose. There have been a large number of high profile cases where Hackney CCTV has achieved good results, for instance the murder in Homerton in Feb 06 was solved due to good work by Hackney CCTV Ops, and the recent Nowak murder will also demonstrate this when it comes to court - 12 people were charged with offences related to David Nowak's murder last week. Looking at their stats, which are online, you can also see they have recovered over £1.2m of stolen cars in the last two years - an excellent record.

12:37 pm, July 23, 2008

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