Acpo: Police swamped by CCTV data

The director of information for the Association of Chief Police Officers has said the overwhelming volume of CCTV data could threaten public safety
Written by Tom Espiner, Contributor

The police cannot deal with the amount of information generated by CCTV cameras, according to the director of information for the Association of Chief Police Officers.

Ian Readhead, director of information for the Acpo Criminal Records Office, said on Wednesday that police were being overwhelmed by the volume of such data, and that one of his major concerns was that police did not have the capability to track a car in real time using the Automatic Number Plate Recognition System (ANPR).

"The problem is the amount of data," said Readhead, speaking at a data protection in event in London on Wednesday. "The worry for me is that a child is kidnapped in Kent, and [the car] goes through a number of cameras, not being picked up."

The APNR uses optical character recognition to convert digital pictures of car number plates into characters, which are then held in a list. The technology was rolled out in part to aid the tracking of suspects, but, according to Readhead, there is simply too much information for the police to be able to use.

Conservative shadow home secretary Dominic Grieve said the efficacy of CCTV as a crime fighting tool was dubious, adding that police use of CCTV was hampered by lack of resources.

"CCTV provides evidence, but evidence firstly doesn't prevent crime, and secondly in many cases the police don't have the time or resources to look at CCTV [footage]," said Grieve. "In fighting crime, mass surveillance through CCTV is highly questionable."

Michael Wills, the minister of state for the ministry of justice, said at the same conference that CCTV had public support.

"I don't believe CCTV is a mistake. My constituents are begging for it," said Wills. "We are living in a very rapidly changing world. Technology is driving that [change], it's not because the government is hell-bent on controlling everyone."

In February a House of Lords committee called for an end to "pervasive" surveillance in the UK.

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