London Mayor should set radical new business-policing agenda

We reported previously that London police have a new boss: the Mayor of London Boris Johnson. Question is, now that he’s got it, what’s he going to do differently from the Metropolitan Policing Authority?

He could, if he wanted, do something radically different with the police which would bring the police into the 21st Century information age and build cooperation between police, businesses and the security industry.

In the process he could create a new model for policing that would be copied around the world.

And it’s all very simple: Give financial support to businesses which install good quality CCTV systems.

A business which installs a good quality system – one that obtains decent images and records them to a good quality recording system – is an invaluable asset to the police when investigating crimes.

Every year, thousands of criminals are identified by the police through CCTV. This was underscored by the success of CCTV following the London riots – see our video interview with DCI Mick Neville of the MPS Circulation Unit (fast forward to 2 mins 15 seconds).

In January 2012, Simon Foy of the MPS said an internal study had shown that CCTV was critical in solving seven out of 10 murders. In 90 murder cases over a one year period, CCTV was used in 86 investigations, and senior officers said it helped to solve 65 cases by capturing the murder itself on film, or tracking the movements of the suspects before or after an attack.

1.85 million cameras in the UK, but only 2% are publicly owned

There are 1.85 million CCTV cameras in the UK of which 98% are on private premises or buses and trains. However, police will tell you that many of the privately owned CCTV systems are aged, comprised of poor quality cameras and/or recording equipment or haven’t been maintained in so many years that they have seriously degraded.

Privately owned cameras often capture images of events happening outside the premises. DCC Graeme Gerrard, who is ACPO lead on CCTV, has long recognised this fact which is why he has organised a force-wide survey of public and private camera systems. In the event of a crime, police can quickly identify the location of useful CCTV cameras and seize the recordings before they are lost.

The Mayor of London has a chance to set a new policing agenda in London, one that leverages the power of the private sector to make the police more effective:

  • Provide guidance to businesses on how to install a good quality CCTV system
  • Recognise the importance that private CCTV plays in public order policing by providing a discount off business rates for installing good quality systems
  • Require the business premises to be inspected by a recognised inspector every year in order to claim the rebate.

Of course it’s in the interests of businesses to have good quality CCTV systems, but the Mayor should recognise the benefit that these private cameras bestow on the public as a whole and take steps to strengthen it.

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