Various people have been asking us to comment on Home Secretary John Reid's latest "must be seen to be doing something" technological magic fix scheme for social and political problems i.e. the "shouting" CCTV surveillance camera idea.
Following a short 3 month, unscientific "trial" in Middlesbrough, for which the Home Office has not bothered to publish any verifiable statistics, nor made any comparisons with, say, increasing the number of "this area is under CCTV surveillance" warning signs, John Reid has announced that the scheme is a "success".
It will be rolled out to the boroughs of Southwark, Barking and Dagenham, Reading, Harlow, Norwich, Ipswich, Plymouth, Gloucester, Derby, Northampton, Mansfield, Nottingham, Coventry, Sandwell, Wirral, Blackpool, Salford, South Tyneside and Darlington.
These will, eventually, be getting around £500,000 of public money, i.e. about £25,000 each, to waste on "shouting" CCTV camera upgrades to a minority of their surveillance systems.
The BBC has quite a full report including a RealMedia video clip "Big Brother gets a new voice" of the Middlesbrough system in action, and in simulated action staged for the reporter.
The targets seem to be litter louts and other minor "anti-social" behaviour, who will be shouted warnings and instructions from CCTV camera pole mounted loudspeakers. by literally faceless bureaucrat camera operators , who do not actually have any Police enforcement powers at all.
The immediate question which springs to mind is why the existing CCTV surveillance cameras, linked as they must be to a live camera operator in a control room, have not already eliminated such behaviour as promised ? That false promise is one on which hundreds of millions of pounds of Central Government and Local Government funds have already been wasted on such systems.
We suspect, that this is because most people do not realise that CCTV cameras are being used to zoom in on them, from well beyond normal human visual and audible range, and that, for some reason, these supposedly crime deterrent systems almost all still have far more actual cameras "this area is under CCTV surveillance" warning signs.
The vast difference in the optical range of the cameras and the much more limited audible range of loudspeakers is a hugely important factor, which the Home Secretary and the media have glossed over, to the point of misleading the public over how practical these systems actually are.
If you look at these frame grabs from the BBC video clip: