Just 1 in 70 CCTV cameras are state-owned, BSIA survey reveals

Simon Adcock, Chairman of the BSIA’s CCTV Section
Simon Adcock, Chairman of the BSIA’s CCTV Section

New research released by the British Security Industry Association (BSIA) has challenged the concept of ‘big brother’ style state surveillance, with new figures revealing that privately-owned CCTV systems outnumber those operated by police and local authorities by as many as 70 to 1.

Launched at a press conference held in London on Wednesday, 10th July, the results of a comprehensive report, carried out by the BSIA – the trade body representing the UK’s private security industry – reveal the truth behind the public perception of the UK’s ‘surveillance culture’, while raising important questions about the nature and scope of CCTV regulation.

Simon Adcock, Chairman of the BSIA’s CCTV Section, explains: “The government’s current regulation, whilst welcome, will initially cover only a tiny proportion of CCTV systems and these are already the most professionally run and tightly controlled schemes.

“Private companies are actually funding the majority of the nation’s CCTV on the basis that it delivers a clear return on investment and this is where the majority of footage used by Police is sourced. Effective CCTV schemes are an invaluable source of crime detection and evidence for the Police. For example in 2009, 95% of Scotland Yard Murder cases used CCTV footage as evidence. The public are supportive of CCTV with 62% wanting to see more in their local area and it is important that we retain their trust and confidence.”

The launch of these latest statistics coincided with a vote in the House of Commons in favour of the publication of the Government’s CCTV Code of Practice, which will now move to further debate in the Lords before being subject to Parliamentary procedures, meaning that this could come into force by as early as the end of the month.

Simon continues: “The extension of this Code to cover privately-owned cameras would encourage the adoption of best practice among installers, while driving standards of system selection, installation and operation. Regulation would also promote the importance of high quality systems with proper installation and setup.”

The publication of the BSIA’s report, which also contains sector-specific results for industry sectors including healthcare, transport and education, provides an informed background to the ongoing debate over the use of CCTV in the UK.

Pauline Norstrom, Vice Chair of the BSIA’s CCTV section, adds: “There is a popular misconception that the camera population in the UK is owned by the Government. The BSIA statistics set the record straight once and for all. It is private businesses who own the material camera population, not the Government. Day to day, these cameras are not available to the government and law enforcement agencies, they are busy working to protect their owner’s premises.

“It is only when a major crime occurs, that the Police ask business owners if they have captured any footage of criminals passing through the private cameras’ field of view. “Without the help of businesses investing into their privately owned systems, the Police would only have access to the one publically owned camera per 1000 head of population. Far too few to be useful and certainly not the surveillance society, which could be portrayed.

“As so many cameras are operated for the purpose of securing business premises, and the BSIA represents the private security industry sector, the BSIA has worked tirelessly to introduce standards and guidelines to CCTV camera operators to ensure that evidence export is managed according to Home Office and Police guidelines, now contained in the British Standard BS 8495.”

The BSIA, as an organisation that represents the professional security industry, hopes that the debate opened up by this report together with further studies will increase the overall professionalism and quality of the CCTV industry and the systems installed.

For more information about the BSIA and its CCTV section, visit www.bsia.co.uk/cctv

BSIA Website