Big Brother is watching

LOCAL authorities in Suffolk and Essex control hundreds of CCTV cameras keeping an eye on citizens throughout the region, new figures have revealed.

Paul Geater

LOCAL authorities in Suffolk and Essex control hundreds of CCTV cameras keeping an eye on citizens throughout the region, new figures have revealed.

A Freedom of Information request sent to the Big Brother Watch group revealed there are 389 cameras operating in Suffolk, with a further 414 controlled by the Essex, Colchester and Tendring councils.

However there was confusion about the number of cameras operating in Ipswich - according to a Freedom of Information request sent to the group Big Brother Watch there are just 28 cameras in the town.

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But the EADT was told that the total number in Ipswich was three times that - with 64 cameras in the town centre and about another 20 at the three park and ride centres around the town.

There are now 60,000 cameras owned by town halls across the UK - one for every 1,000 people. The number has trebled in 10 years.

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Most are controlled by borough or district councils but a few are controlled by counties - mainly to keep an eye on traffic flows at key junctions and to watch specific locations such as children's centres or fire stations.

In East Anglia the number is generally less than the national average.

Privacy campaigner Big Brother Watch uncovered the scale of CCTV use by local authorities in a major national study.

Director Alex Deane said CCTV was seen as a "cheap alternative to policing".

The rise of expensive "surveillance networks' has made little impact on cutting crime, he said.

He said: "Local councils across Britain are creating enormous networks of CCTV surveillance at great expense, but the evidence for the ability of CCTV to deter or solve crimes is sketchy at best.”

The study, entitled Big Brother Is Watching, found that 418 local authorities control 59,753 cameras. Ten years ago a similar study found the total was 21,000.

Freedom of Information Act requests revealed the councils with most cameras were Portsmouth and Nottingham, which each control 1,454.

A spokesman for Ipswich council said CCTV cameras were important to fight crime and to make people feel safer in the town.

He said: “The cameras have been very useful in identifying when crimes are taking place, and of course their presence deters a great deal of crime.

“They have proved very useful in detecting some high-profile cases - and of course they help people to feel much more secure.”

Number of cameras in public areas :

Suffolk County Council: 146 - 0.2 for every thousand people

Essex County Council: 167 - 0.1 per thousand

Ipswich: 84 (borough figure) - 0.6 per thousand

St Edmundsbury: 120 (Includes 24 cameras in Forest Heath and 12 in Stowmarket) - 0.8 per thousand

Mid Suffolk: 2 (at a council depot) - 0.2 per thousand

Babergh: 26 - 0.3 per thousand

Suffolk Coastal: 11 - 0.1 per thousand

Tendring: 106 - 0.8 per thousand

Colchester: 141 - 0.9 per thousand

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