Page last updated at 11:45 GMT, Friday, 4 December 2009

Cash prizes for catching CCTV criminals

CCTV images

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There are 4.2 million CCTV cameras in Britain watching our every move.

In London, there are more CCTV cameras than any other city in the world with one camera for every eight Londoners.

But as victims of crime have found to their cost, catching criminals on camera is dependent on the equipment being both monitored and maintained.

BBC Inside Out's investigation has found that all too often Big Brother either is not watching, had a broken camera, lost the footage or could not be bothered to go through the tapes.

Even within the Metropolitan Police itself, there are differences of opinion about the value of CCTV.

One senior Met officer, Mick Neville, described London's CCTV network as an "utter fiasco", claiming it takes 1,000 cameras to solve just one crime per year.

But another senior Met officer disagrees. Detective Chief Inspector Julian Worker said: "For me, it is the most useful tool amongst the armoury of investigative tools that the Metropolitan Police and other police services throughout the country use. We are probably market leaders in the way that we utilise CCTV."

One UK businessman thinks he has come up with a solution by recruiting volunteers to watch live CCTV footage streamed over the web in return for cash prizes.

Businessman Tony Morgan sees his company, Internet Eyes, as the future with an army of volunteer spies monitoring live CCTV footage online and alerting police to any criminal activity they witness.

Their only incentive is a monthly prize of £1,000 for the best crime spotter of the month yet more than 10,000 recruits have already signed up.

But civil rights campaigners are not happy with the scheme.

Charles Farrier, from No CCTV, said: "Internet Eyes is a very worrying development - we are already the most watched country in the world. Now we have a private company asking private individuals to spy on each other."

Internet Eyes launches in early 2010 and is dependent on both volunteers sticking to their commitment to monitor the cameras and on police following up any leads that the volunteers alert them to.

BBC Inside Out London is on BBC One at 1930 on Monday 7 December and nationwide on BBC iPlayer.

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