I don’t like CCTVs. The notion that these metal and plastic eyes are keeping us safe and our property secure feels like a myth to me. Studies have shown that CCTV is, at best, far less effective than we think, and at worst, not effective at all. Yet we still have faith in the technology that is perhaps only now starting to catch up with our expectations.
Like anyone, I want to feel safe and I’d like my stuff to be safe too, but I’d prefer real safety and security rather than the illusion of it. Be it so-called airport security, or security on the streets, I don’t mind nonintrusive measures that are effective, but perhaps ironically given my love for photography, I absolutely despise CCTV cameras quietly watching me.
When my bike was stolen the police said they were unable to recover any camera footage, despite the city having what they called “a really good network of cameras.” Some close by shops did have cameras, but nobody was going to go out of their way to try and find anything in relation to yet another stolen bike. Even if they had, and the police had somehow managed to catch the thief, a $2 baseball cap could have rendered the footage worthless as evidence. So in the end all that the “really good network of cameras” managed to get me was a badly written letter from the police giving me a report number so I could claim on my insurance.
As silly as it may seem, widespread CCTV surveillance was one of the reasons I left the UK. If CCTVs make us safer then the UK should be the safest country on the planet as there are more cameras watching the population there than anywhere else in the world. However, the UK is not the safest country in the world, and crime detection rates there are as poor (or as good) as similar countries that don’t have blanket camera coverage.
So while most people see these cameras as harmless eyes dumbly watching over someone’s stuff, I see them as symbols of foolishness that allow us all to turn a blind eye to the social issues we should really be watching.