You'd think after all these years of walking along chatting on a mobile phone (cellphone), that by now the novelty would have worn off. And yet time and again I'm struck by the apparent simplicity of the concept against a backdrop of some quite spectacularly clever technology, that we all just take for granted.
It will perhaps come as no surprise that I'm actually old enough to appreciate a world before mobile communications, in fact I can still readily recall the immense effort required for my then young and spindly fingers to turn the old rotary dialler, on our ancient rattly old bakolite telephone.
Now you could be forgiven for wondering what the heck this has to do with CCTV, but quite by accident, I had something of a eureka moment the other day.
I happened to come across an interesting article written on the subject of video surveillance, possibly one of perhaps hundreds that I might chance upon in an average week.
What set this piece apart was not so much the content, as there's very little written on the subject that I haven't already seen a few dozen times before.
No, what really set this apart, was not only was it written by a very thoughtful and articulate young lady in her twenties, but she also happened to be a resident of the United States that is currently studying in the U.K.
I've long been wondering about the precise mechanics of deterrence in relation to the way we attempt to use CCTV as a crime reducing technology, and how our experiences in the U.K. tend to suggest that there is something fundamentally wrong with the simple concept of 'cameras cut crime'.
I certainly know enough about the subject to realise that it isn't simply about using the technology, but equally it's as important to apply the correct techniques, and in so doing properly fulfil a defined and achievable strategy.
Now coming back to the young lady gracing our shores, her perception of CCTV and it's implications on our society, were reported by her to be very different from those of her british peers, and this simple observation was what finally caused the penny to drop.
Since successive U.K. governments started to fund the widescale deployment of Public Space CCTV schemes back in the '80s, that would mean that anyone under the age of 25, would not really know a world without surveillance cameras. From their earliest memories of childhood, the cameras have always been there, albeit that it's only been in the last ten or so years that the installation of cameras has really taken off big time.
So on the basis that over here, people of a certain age have become generationally habituated to the presence of CCTV, barely concerned as to whether the systems are operating efficiently, or at all for that matter, it can't really be any great surprise that youth crime is stubbornly refusing to respond to a deterrence, which an older generation have naively invested billions in, and which to this day is promoted as a technological cure-all for societies many and varied ills.
There has to be something not quite right, when the old duffers think it's money well spent, and the target of their attentions, the less than bright young things ... just ain't bovvered.
As a society, we perhaps need to take a step back and consider carefully all the achievable objectives, and how best to focus resources on addressing the actions of the law defying, without continuing to routinely impact on the everyday lives of the law abiding.
Or then again, we could just keep on spending a large fortune on covering the country with as many CCTV cameras as possible, and still have one of the least enviable crime rates amongst all of our european neighbours.
Decisions, decisions .....
Labels: CCTV, Civil Liberties, Closed Circuit Television, crime, crime reduction, privacy, video surveillance