CCTV spending by councils 'was £515m in five years'

Councils across the UK spent more than £515m on CCTV systems between 2007 and 2011, according to campaign group Big Brother Watch.

Figures obtained by the civil liberties group found that Birmingham City Council was the highest spender and spent £14.3m on its 636 cameras.

Second highest was Westminster City Council with £11.8m on 153 cameras.

The group claimed the amount spent by the 428 councils questioned was enough to pay for 4,000 police officers.

Big Brother Watch director Nick Pickles said: "Surveillance is an important tool in modern policing but it is not a substitute for policing.

"A lot of the disturbances in the summer proved that theory - criminals were looking for CCTV but wore balaclavas and went ahead and robbed anyway."

'Comparable to DNA'

Deputy Chief Constable Graeme Gerrard, from the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), said: "CCTV forms a vital element within modern policing and most serious crime investigations have a CCTV investigation strategy.

"Following the disorder in August 2011, a significant number of offenders were prosecuted using evidence from CCTV cameras and images and films from mobile phones of members of the public.

"Overall, Acpo believes the contribution of CCTV to the detection of crime is comparable to that of DNA and fingerprints."

Of the 428 councils questioned, Big Brother Watch found 51,655 cameras are now being operated and that 18 authorities spent more than £1m per year.

The group found Leeds City Council spent £8.8m on 253 cameras and £6.2m was spent by Edinburgh Council on 232 cameras.

Five councils were each found to be operating more than 1,000 cameras, the highest being Leicester which runs 2,083 cameras.

'Quality not quantity'

Fife Council runs 1,420 cameras at a cost of £0.9m and Wandsworth spent £4.8m on 1,158 cameras.

The group said Nottingham City Council operates 1,120 costing £4.7m and and Southampton City Council 1,030 cameras costing £2.4m.

Mr Pickles said: "There is no credible evidence that more cameras will reduce crime, yet councils have poured enough money into CCTV in just four years that would have put more than 4,000 extra police officers on the streets."

Westminster Council's Robert McAlister said: "It's about quality not quantity. We monitor our cameras 24/7, 365 days of the year so we can take action as incidents occur, but CCTV is not a silver bullet.

"Looking after our city is not just about CCTV and crime and disorder - it's about bobbies on the beat, it's about parking, litter, scaffolding and general city management."

He also said the council had recently paid for a new control centre at the Trocadero near Piccadilly.

No-one from Birmingham City Council was available to comment.

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