CCTV 'fails' as deterrent

A journalist who broke the law by urinating into a litter bin in a Northampton street to test the town's CCTV surveillance team has labelled the scheme a failure.

Ross Clark said he committed the crime while researching a book about Britain's surveillance society.

But despite a camera being placed immediately above the scene, his misdemeanour went apparently unnoticed.

Speaking on BBC Radio Four's Today programme, Mr Clark said he has witnessed two other crimes while visiting Northampton's town centre which also went unpunished.

The author said cameras were being used to replace existing policing and questioned the success rate of CCTV in reducing crime.

He said: "I visited Northampton and witnessed one mugging, and louts pulling over a potted tree, but I didn't witness a single police officer in that time.

"I asked to go to Northampton's operating room to see how it works but they didn't seem to want me. So I went out into the town itself to see how the CCTV system works and I peed into a litter bin directly under one of the CCTV cameras and got absolutely no response.

"Northampton is an interesting case because they have 400 CCTV cameras and crime has risen since they have been installed. But before Christmas 2005 the police force deployed horses on the street for a couple of weeks and violent crime fell by 27 per cent, so the cavalry succeeds where cameras fail."

Superintendent George Shipman, head of Community Safety for the Northampton Area, said: "Obviously Mr Clark has his views and wishes to promote them, but the picture he paints of Northampton town centre is not one we would recognise.

"I also have to say that we depend on the public to call us when a crime is taking place and it is a pity if Mr Clark really saw criminal damage and robbery taking place, that he did not call and report them.

"Crime in the area, and in Northampton town centre in particular, has also decreased, not risen.

"Whatever Mr Clark's views, we value the CCTV system in Northampton greatly. It provides us with evidence and early warning of offences and there is no doubt it also has a deterrent effect."