06 October 2009

Strictly Come Quietly

In a story that could have been written just for Hofflimits, news reaches us that from November, the Great British public will be able to join in the CCTV revolution from the comfort of their own homes (story here). A logical extension of The X-Factor will see the citizens of Stratford Upon Avon granted access to local CCTV online, with the chance to report any misdemeanours they see being committed in real time to store detectives. To the winners will go points and prizes, to the losers, presumably, court and jail.

It is the brainchild of the founder of a website called Internet Eyes, James Woodward, who claims the monstrous ubiquity of CCTV in the UK is a victim of its own success. You see there are too many cameras that record absolutely nothing of interest; a recent survey of cameras in London estimated one crime was captured for every 1000 cameras in place. Presumably the rest were in use elsewhere, being operated by failed coppers ogling the hemlines of girls on the street. But this is not because there is not enough crime, or they are badly placed, or, frankly, superfluous. It is because there aren't enough police officers, failed or otherwise, to spend 18 hours a day watching footage of a brick wall on the off chance a mugger will walk in front of it.

This is where you come in. The Internet Eyes website will offer up to £1,000 if you spot shoplifting or other crimes in progress, thereby combining crime prevention with the incentive of winning money, not to mention generating a certain gameshow-esque thrill. What could possibly go wrong? I'm sure you have worked it out already.

I'm not a betting man, but I'd reckon the odds quite good on a crimewave hitting Stratford in November, as people send their mates in to Lidls to liberate a few tins of special brew, before phoning in the "crime" and pocketing a cheque to be split with their fleet-footed friends later. No doubt the coppers will eventually iron out the process of "reward for reporting" - do you get the check only after a conviction, or is it enough just to report it?

Think of the added dimensions this could bring to neighbourhood disputes. That grumpy old sod from next door pops into oddbins - you put a quick call in to the old bill, say you've seen him slip a Cabernet down his trousers. Look at that pramface with her brats in Netto - I should report her just for wearing that skirt. Truly the mean-spirited nature of the worst Daily Mail, curtain twitching tendencies this country can offer are just a month or so away from being fully realised at last. But at least it will stop people banging on about the clash between X-Factor and Strictly Come Dancing on a Saturday night. They'll be too busy zooming in to see exactly what Mrs Faversham from number 24 is putting in her trolley.

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