Monday, December 1, 2008

CCTV to predict crime before it happens

TREND : CCTV to predict crime before it happens

November 28th, 2008


What sounds like something from the sci-fi movie ‘Minority Report’ is to become a reality on Britain’s streets - smart CCTV that can predict crime before it happens.

The cameras monitor people’s movements and then alert the police or security staff to suspicious activity, such as a car thief loitering in one area or small groups coming together for drug deals.

Officers or security guards can then confront potential offenders before a crime is even committed.

The cameras used specially developed software that can identify suspicious behaviour, such as a man loitering in car park, or a car moving slowly down a road.

If someone is seen lurking in a particular area, the computer will send out an alarm to a CCTV operator.

Nick Hewitson, managing director of Smart CCTV, which is behind the software, said it lets security staff stay “ahead of the curve”.

He said: “If there is a person hanging around, you can send someone down there to challenge them. Ultimately you can get there before anything happens.”

So far half a dozen cameras have been fitted with the new technology by the local council in Portsmouth.

If the system proves successful, it could be rolled out across as many as 600 of the boroughs 1,000 CCTV cameras.

Jason Fazackarley, a councillor in Portsmouth, said: “It’s the 21st century equivalent of a nightwatchman, but unlike a nightwatchman it never blinks, it never takes a break and it never gets bored.

“It’s an eye in the night. The darkness is no longer a place where criminals can hide.”

The software – known as known as video content analysis – is tipped to be the next big thing in automated security and it is expected that its use will grow considerably over the next few years.

Civil liberties groups have already raised concerns that the technology could lead to more people being challenged by police and security staff for going about their business.

A spokesman for the No2ID campaign said: “As ever the problem is not when the camera acts like a nightwatchman; it is when it records information about individuals that isn’t immediately used for the detection of crime, but is kept ‘just in case’.

“This makes us all into permanent suspects. The idea that all our behaviour in public places is to be recorded and interpreted by machines, and may be used to focus police on us if we ‘look odd’ is more of a disciplinarian fantasy than a realistic contribution to criminal justice in a free society.”

Liberty’s Campaigns Coordinator Sabina Frediani added: “Bringing expensive Hollywood sci-fi to our car parks will never be as effective as having police on the street lead the fight against crime.”

Conservative Shadow Home Secretary Dominic Grieve said: ‘We will look at this carefully… but there is no argument for CCTV that invades your privacy without being effective in the fight against crime.’

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