Over the latter years of my police career, the technology available in the fight against crime increased at phenomenal rates. New radio systems, better computerised records, speed detection systems, urban CCTV, and Automatic Numberplate Recognition are all now in place.
With that increased availability of technological solutions and their associated capability, also came the increase in public expectation for results. Rightly so, especially when you consider the public money that has been expended nationally, regionally and locally. It’s tax-payers money and they have demand and deserve a return on their considerable investment.
However, despite the lourding of these new technologies, and the associated media fanfares at the time of introduction, many of them are not being fully utilised. Several urban CCTV systems are left without operators to monitor them for long periods, large percentages of speed detection systems spend a lot of time switched off and, ANPR monitors sit pinging away without human intervention in a dusty corner of police control rooms.
And the reason for all this? In simple terms money, the money required to pay operators to monitor the systems isn’t available. Many Chief Constables and local authority CEOs simply don’t have the funds required, especially now the initial setup grants from central government have been withdrawn. The situation is also set to get worse.
In a recent piece entitled Allowing a monster to slip through the net Peter Barron of the Darlington & Stockton Times, reported on the outcomes from the Independent Police Complaints Commission report into the murder of Ashleigh Hall. He said…
IT has been clear for some time that North-East teenager Ashleigh Halls murder by paedophile Peter Chapman took place against a background of police failings.
Mr Barron’s report continued with the usual emotive media comments such as “shocking negligence” and “catalogue of errors” which although perhaps relevant to the case at hand, they usually tend to undermine what little public confidence there is left for British policing. Is this predominant style of media reporting really conducive to rebuilding cohesion in our society?
The press report went on to ask; “How can the public have confidence in the management of paedophiles if the system which is meant to monitor them is so chronically inefficient?” Although the IPCC concluded that it was, “impossible to say whether the use of ANPR would have prevented Ashleigh’s death. The IPCC recommended that “every police force should have local ANPR policies in place – and use them properly.”
All the above may well be stating the obvious however; many of these new technologies were introduced in a blaze of hype and media glory, often to placate public opinion. That said, decisions have to be made about what services (and technology) the public actually want and more importantly, what they are actually prepared to pay for?
- South Yorks police leads UK in use of ANPR cameras (go.theregister.com)
- Uninsured-vehicle seizures double (autonetinsurance.co.uk)
- “Surveillance still expanding, says parliamentary report” and related posts (kable.co.uk)
- Surveillance society soon a reality, report suggests (guardian.co.uk)
- The Surveillance Society – Proceeding Apace (globalsociology.com)