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Monday, 4 December, 2000, 15:08 GMT
Crimefighters turn to CCTV
London nailbomber David Copeland
Camera footage helped police catch David Copeland
Police and security forces are increasingly turning to closed circuit television systems in the fight against crime.

Detectives have released footage showing the last hours of 10-year-old Damilola Taylor in the hope of jogging witnesses' memories.

Video evidence like this, familiar to viewers through programmes like the BBC's Crimewatch, has often proved vital in prompting people to come forward with important information, and even in solving cases.

CCTV cameras provided detectives with their main breakthrough in the hunt for nail bomber David Copeland.

Copeland, jailed for life for three murders caused in bomb attacks in London's Brixton, Brick Lane and Soho, was captured on camera near the scene of the first explosion.

Bomber David Copeland in Brixton
David Copeland (ringed) was recognised by a work colleague
Officers spent hours examining footage trying to identify a man carrying a dark bag among the thousands of people filmed that afternoon in Brixton in April 1999.

Copeland was eventually singled out by a colleague who had worked with him on the Jubilee Line extension and was subsequently arrested.

In another high-profile case, the boys who killed James Bulger - Jon Venables and Robert Thompson - were identified by a local resident hours after they were shown on videotape escorting their victim through a Merseyside shopping centre.

CCTV videotapes were also used in the recent Hungerford Bridge murder case of student Timothy Baxter.

His killers were caught on CCTV film giggling and laughing as they left the bridge.

Deterrent effect

A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: "CCTV was instrumental in identifying and arresting [David Copeland].

"A lot of people are arrested through CCTV for muggings, street disorder and thefts from shops. It certainly works as a deterrent."

While admitting there was evidence that placing cameras in town centres and areas of high crime could mean crime moving to other areas, he said cameras also made people feel safer.

"If the pickpockets are pushed into the side streets there are not going to be so many victims," he added. "That is all we can do."

cctv footage
Caught on camera: James Bulger is led away
Simon Lubin, a spokesman for the British Transport Police, said CCTV cameras were an important part of London Underground and rail security.

"There was a rise in crime on the underground last year, but it was about half the national rate," he said.

"We do use it a lot - every day - for picking out and identifying suspects.

"We have video evidence gatherers who do nothing but going through videotapes that have been called in."

Digital imaging

Mr Lubin said CCTV footage had been instrumental in catching two brothers, Anthony and Aaron Baxter, who in 1996 terrorised passengers on a London train with a machete and a handgun, robbing 25 people.

Although they were aware of the heavy camera coverage across London stations and tried to cover their faces, police were able to trace their journey backwards and obtain a good image which showed the brothers' faces.

They were subsequently arrested and convicted.

New technological developments, such as digital imaging and facial recognition software, promise to make the use of CCTV footage even more effective in the future.

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See also:

04 Dec 00 | UK
Damilola video released
30 Jun 00 | UK
CCTV helped trap killer
19 May 00 | UK
Bridge murder gang get life
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