UK CCTV figures feature in PS4 launch

It was an event watched by millions around the world via live streams and debated globally across social media. But one part of the Playstation Meeting, which took place last night in New York, contained warnings on the UK CCTV statistics which could be considered more hype than fact.

Nate Fox from the Sucker Punch studio took to the stage at Sony’s highly-anticipated 2013 Playstation Meeting to introduce the latest game from the studio, inFamous: Second Son.

He painted the tail of a dark and dilapidated world to onlookers and reeled off chilling statistics about how much citizens around the globe are monitored by surveillance cameras.

“We all want to feel safe but it is hard to put your finger on what that sense of security is worth. However it is easy to say what it costs,” he said.

“Right now there are 4.2 million security cameras distributed all around Great Britain, that is one camera for every 14 citizens.”

But how accurate were those figures? And could it be seen as damaging if such companies are using a misleading figure when addressing a global audience?

The 4.2 million figure quoted is based on research undertaken by Michael McCahill and Clive Norris in a paper published in 2002, but this figure has been called into question in recent years due to its validity.

However, more recently, research undertaken by Graeme Gerrard, the deputy chief constable of Cheshire and lead on CCTV issues for the Association of Police Officers, estimated the figure is closer to only 1.85 million CCTV cameras in the UK.

DCC Gerrard worked with the force’s Geographical Information Systems Administrator, Richard Thompson, to map all CCTV cameras in public and private ownership in Cheshire. This data was extrapolated and adjusted for land use patterns and population. It then had the 33,423 cameras operated by local authorities and an estimated 115,000 for numbers of cameras on public transit added on to arrive at the figure of 1.85 million.

It could potentially be damaging to the industry if over-inflated statistics are used, especially when simply put as a throw-away statement to create a climate of fear as part of a marketing ploy.

The millions of consumers who watched Wednesday night’s event worldwide have been misled by a video game company exploiting statistics, gathered through a lack of research, in order to convince people they’re constantly being monitored in every part of their everyday life.

With CCTV surveillance continuing to be a topic of much debate, Britons need to be aware of a more accurate reflection of camera numbers in order to have an informed discussion.

DCC Gerrard 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.”

See the full text of the article by Gerrard an Thompson in CCTV Image 42: How many cameras are there in the UK (PDF)

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