Public spending on surveillance is worthwhile to secure public safety, said the British Security Industry Association (BSIA) to a recent online report highlighting concerns over the rise in the number of surveillance cameras controlled by local councils over the past decade.
The report entitled "Big Brother Watch - an offshoot of the Taxpayers' Alliance" questioned the effectiveness of surveillance in deterring or solving crimes, which is regarded as an inaccurate assessment, said Pauline Norstrom, BSIA CCTV Section Chairman.
"Thankfully the reality of surveillance in Britain is not the doom-laden picture that is painted by this report. Time and again the police take advantage of surveillance images to reconstruct events, identify offenders and make high-profile calls for public support in their enquiries," Norstrom said.
"Such images are frequently called upon in the criminal justice system to help secure prosecutions," she said. “Three particular examples underlining the positive impact of surveillance in solving crimes are the Jamie Bulger case - one of the first times surveillance was used in a major investigation; the London bombings, where surveillance images helped to secure convictions for conspiracy to murder for those involved in a follow-up attack to the tragic events of 7/7; and the US$86.6 million Tonbridge depot robbery."
"The report also argues that money currently spent on expanding surveillance networks would be better utilized by employing more police on the beat,” Norstrom said. "A more realistic comparison would have taken into account the anticipated operational life of the surveillance system, thereby dramatically reducing the number of police officers that could be employed using the equivalent funds."
"The BSIA does not believe that the argument for surveillance goes hand-in-hand with advocating a ‘big brother' culture, but does of course appreciate the need for effective checks and balances on surveillance to ensure that it is being used effectively,” she said. “To this end the BSIA continues to play an active role in the promotion of surveillance best practice and has welcomed the government's announcement of an interim surveillance regulator."
"Surveillance is a valuable weapon in the fight against crime and terrorism, something which is increasingly being recognized by governments and municipal authorities worldwide," Norstrom said.