Page last updated at 01:12 GMT, Friday, 4 December 2009

Call for review of CCTV systems

By Reevel Alderson
BBC Scotland's home affairs correspondent

CCTV cameras
The report called for a debate on the use of CCTV

The first detailed review of public space CCTV cameras in Scotland has said many are old and in need of urgent replacement.

A report commissioned by the Scottish government said there was an immediate need for a review of their funding.

The review also called for a debate on the effectiveness of CCTV systems and what they are used for.

There are about 2,200 CCTV cameras in public spaces such as city centres, parks and shopping centres.

Every Scottish council area except Aberdeenshire has them, but the highest concentrations are urban areas in Glasgow, North Lanarkshire, the Forth Valley, Edinburgh and South Lanarkshire.

We believe it has a role to play in the prevention, detection and prosecution of crime. But we want to improve this resource
Fergus Ewing
Community Safety Minister

The estimated cost of operating them over the next three years is more than £40m.

But the report said there had been little research into their effectiveness in preventing crime and disorder.

It called for a debate on the use to which CCTV is put - whether it is to deter or detect crime or reduce public fear.

The researchers pointed out not all cameras were monitored all the time.

They said: "Control rooms are not always staffed for the full 24 hours per day. CCTV cameras are not routinely 'patrolling' but tend to be 'parked' i.e. static."

The report acknowledged that police regard CCTV as an essential tool in detecting crime.

Sharing information

But that could be compromised because a significant proportion of the cameras are technologically out-dated and need urgent replacement, meaning many of the images they capture are of low quality.

There was also a call for new systems to be introduced which are compatible with equipment in prosecutors' offices and courts to make the sharing of information easier and more effective.

The report also suggested new uses for cameras, such as linking them to tagging schemes for offenders and fitting cameras with speakers and lights which can be switched on when disorder occurs.

Community Safety Minister Fergus Ewing said the Scottish government would establish a working group of key professionals and stakeholders to examine the future of CCTV.

He said: "We believe it has a role to play in the prevention, detection and prosecution of crime. But we want to improve this resource."

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