How many cameras in the UK? Only 1.85 million, claims ACPO lead on CCTV

How many cameras are there in the UK?

How many cameras are there? It’s a perennial question but now we think we have the answer.

There are only 1.85 million CCTV cameras in the UK, not 4.2 million as commonly claimed. That’s according to research undertaken by the deputy chief constable of Cheshire, Graeme Gerrard.

DCC Gerrard is also the lead on CCTV issues for the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO).

The 4.2 million figure is based on research undertaken by Michael McCahill and Clive Norris in a paper published in 2002 but it’s a number that has been called into question in recent years.

Calculating the revised figure was made possible following an information gathering exercise by Cheshire Constabulary.

DCC Gerrard instructed the force’s Geographical Information Systems Administrator, Richard Thompson, to map all of the CCTV cameras in public and private ownership in Cheshire as part of an initiative to help investigating officers locate CCTV evidence more effectively.

PCSOs throughout Cheshire were tasked with visiting businesses and asking them about their use of CCTV. The information collected – which included the location of cameras, type of recording media used, how long the images were retained before being erased and the angle of view – was then added to Cheshire’s GIS system.  (See CCTV Image issue 28 for more about this exercise).

Extrapolating from this data – and adjusting for land use patterns and population – Gerrard and Thompson arrived at an estimated 1.7 million privately owned CCTV cameras in the UK.

To this number they added 33,433 for the number of cameras operated by local authorities and 115,000 as an estimate of the number of cameras on public transit throughout the UK.

Adding the three figures together, they arrived at the 1.85 million figure.

DCC Gerrard is the co-author of the National CCTV Strategy published by the Home Office in October 2007. He believes the new estimate should help shape the debate on CCTV in the UK. As he wrote in CCTV Image magazine: “To claim that we have more CCTV cameras than any other country assumes that we not only know how many cameras there are in the UK but also how many there are in every other country – a questionable assertion because, as we shall demonstrate in this article, until now we didn’t even have a reliable estimate of camera numbers in this country.”

Cheshire figures

  • Privately-owned cameras that have a view of public space: 9766
  • Public cameras owned by LAs: 504
  • Population of Cheshire: 1,006,100
Camera concentration per 100
population in Cheshire
Urban Rural
High 25.4 7.7
Low 0.6 0.3
Average 3.6 0.9

National UK figures

  • Weighted average (matching national urban/rural profile): 2.805 cameras per 100 population
  • Privately owned cameras in UK = (2.805/100)*60,776,238 = 1,704,773 cameras
  • Publicly owned cameras in UK = 33,433 (Gerrard/Thompson estimate)
  • Cameras on public transportation = 115,000 (Gerrard/Thompson estimate, based on Transport for London figures)
  • Total CCTV cameras in UK = 1.85 million.
CCTV cameras in the UK by ownership
CCTV cameras in the UK by ownership

The full text of the article by Gerrard and Thompson is available here: CCTV Image 42: How many cameras are there in the UK (PDF)

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