’Police armed with keyboards can be as effective as those with truncheons’ — discuss

By Anna Sandiford 23/08/2011

Regardless of what people think about Big Brother and the nanny state, there’s no denying that in a country fed up with troublemakers, England has used the myriad of CCTV cameras to deal to rioters.  The Breat British Public have, of course, added their own version of looters by photoshopping them: PhotoShop Looters.   These are extracts from an article from the Daily Express:

“THE fires of Britain’s worst riots for a generation were still smouldering when the first images of the suspects began appearing. In the next few hours hundreds more were released across the nation on police websites and the photosharing site Flickr, which is viewed by millions. In an instant the long arm of the law extended even further. The thugs who brought terror to our streets and thought they’d got away with it discovered there was no hiding place. Technology and the very social networking sites which the rioters used to arrange the looting are being utilised against them.

In the past this type of operation, involving rounding up thousands of suspects, would have taken weeks but for many involved in the recent riots justice has been virtually instant. Already more than 3,000 suspects have been arrested. There’s no substitute for flooding cities with officers to prevent trouble but remote policing is also playing a major role. In the past few days we’ve seen that officers armed with keyboards can be as effective as those with truncheons.

CCTV cameras have been around for decades but gone are the days when they produced grainy pictures or weren’t even loaded with film. Today’s versions serve up pin-sharp images around the clock.  …. Police say there are about 1.8 million cameras dotted around the UK recording every one of us about 70 times a day. Civil rights groups claim the figure is as high as 300 in central London.

In fact Britain has more of them than any other country in Europe. That might upset privacy campaigners but it’s giving police a major weapon in the fight against street crime. In London alone about 500 officers involved in Operation Withern, the codename for the investigation into the riots in the capital, are said to be sifting through 20,000 hours of CCTV footage.”

[That’s a lot of footage and a lot of Police man-hours – it begs the question of what other Police tools have been lost through budget cuts if money is being routed into labour-intensive work such as this?  I’m not saying that it’s not worthwhile because clearly it is, but it does make it difficult to see how an effective Force can be maintained when there must be significant cost in using and keeping up-to-date with technology yet budgets are being severely cut by governments.]

One benefit of having so many images is that it allows police to use a tactic called ’back-tracking’, involving following a suspect as he moves around different locations.  Not only does it allow officers to track rioters but by studying images taken over a period of time, a suspect who pulls a hood or mask over his face to commit a crime is often seen with his face uncovered…..

Security industry sources say the latest cameras use technology developed for filming sports events which are capable of tracking a brand logo on clothing….

In Birmingham, digital photographs of the rioters have been posted on a police van with a built-in giant screen and scores of images of rioters were released on the BBC’s Crimewatch earlier this week as the relentless pursuit continued.

In one of the most remarkable uses of technology a victim whose laptop was stolen relied on a tracking device to monitor the thief.  Greg Martin, a Texan, activated it following the raid on his girlfriend’s flat in London.  Despite flying abroad on a business trip the 29-year-old was able to pinpoint the location of his stolen computer and even watch on its webcam via his mobile phone as the thief surfed the net.  Eventually the suspect logged on to his own Facebook site, immediately giving away his identity, which Mr Martin passed to police.  ’When this guy’s face popped up in front of me it was the most incredible feeling,’ says Mr Martin. ’Fortunately I’ve spent my entire career in computer security. I was able to put in a pass- word and basically stalk the thief. I got the guy on a silver platter.’

Many rioters believed they could loot with impunity because police were initially thin on the ground. After helping themselves from shops some posted images of themselves with their loot on Facebook and other sites.  Hundreds of people on Twitter also posted pictures of a burning police car and evidence of looting, with many encouraging others to join in.  However in the aftermath popular sites were being monitored by detectives and hundreds of alleged culprits soon received an unwelcome knock on their door.  Technology allows officers to search social networking sites and messages for keywords, such as ’riot’, and areas in their policing districts.

Two men who tried to organise riots using Facebook were caught in Cheshire. Jordan Blackshaw, 20, from Northwich, and Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan, 22, of Warrington, were each sentenced to four years…after admitting using the social networking site to try to raise a mob.

One mystery is how police have apparently been able to intercept messages sent from BlackBerry devices, which are supposedly encrypted and untraceable.  These phones have become popular among gang members who can send messages to scores of people simultaneously.

“All these devices are cutting the time taken to catch crooks.  We will always need police on the streets but in the 21st century, as rioters are finding, there’s no doubt Big Brother is doing his bit to bring criminals to justice.”

And on a flippant note, this Big Brother has to be better than the TV Big Brother, which starts its 11th year soon, after the 8th season of Celebrity Big Brother….could this be a contributory factor to riots in Britain?


(Thanks to wT for sharing this link)

0 Responses to “’Police armed with keyboards can be as effective as those with truncheons’ — discuss”

  • Of course, it must be pointed out that wall-to-wall CCTV cameras failed to prevent the riots from happening in the first place.
    Since, this wide deployment of these cameras was justified on the basis that it would prevent crime, I’m underwealmed.
    I’m happy to see the rioters bought to justice, but no riots would have been a far better result.
    Frankly, I suspect that the politicians utter contempt for our rights and privacy probably contributed more to the riots than TV Big Brother.

  • One MP bitterly criticising the rioters has been done for illegally extorting 8 laptops on his expenses. Of course,he’ll walk.; the rioters wont. Truly,hypocrisy is the art of the English

  • The deployment of CCTV security camera systems is never going to prevent crime happening in the first place – that’s because it’s impossible to monitor all the systems in real time. The real benefit of CCTV is the wealth of information the systems provide after the event, especially using the technique known as ‘back tracking’. I’ve now lost count of the number of successful prosecutions in New Zealand alone which were based mainly on recordings recovered from such systems. CCTV security camera systems are indeed one of the most important crime fighting tools of our age.

  • As far as I know (this was certainly the case when I was living in London a coupla years back), the CCTV cameras coating the city had yet to be shown to have real effect, and certainly nothing in proportion to their cost and the manhours they eat up.

    Further, this sort of Big Brother attitude serves only to further entrench the ‘them and us’ attitude felt my many Londoners wrt the police, rather thans eeing the police as, well, a civil service aimed to _helping_ the populace. This them and us attitude may well have helped to fuel the riots, and won’t likely help in future situations, either.