Tim Sandefur makes some good points on why surveillance cameras are not necessarily “Orwellian”, by pointing out that if it is intrusive to have a camera in a public street, why do people not complain if a police officer or some other official of the State is patrolling up and down? However, where I think the debate gets a bit tangled is that for many people, while CCTV is good at recording crimes, it records the incidents after they have taken place. It is less clear if these cameras have a deterrent effect in the same way that police patrols might do. CCTV did not, as far as I can tell, appreciably affect the pattern of the London mayhem of last August. Local authorities and other bodies may claim that CCTV really does cut crime, but I am not sure how reliable such statements really are. In the area where I live – Pimlico – there were a number of street robberies on women and the area has its share of CCTV (which is not surprising as the area is full of politicians, such as former defence ministers, in one case).
In summary, CCTV might not be as Big Brother as some fear, but the real problem is that it is only of limited use in deterring thugs.
Separately, I hardly ever read articles thinking through the implications of last August’s disgraceful looting, violence and mayhem. How easy we forget.