Billions spent on CCTV have failed to cut crime and led to an 'utter fiasco', says Scotland Yard surveillance chief

Just 3% of street robberies in London solved

The billions of pounds spent covering Britain with CCTV cameras has been an "utter fiasco" and failed to slash crime, Scotland Yard's surveillance chief has said.

Detective Chief Inspector Mick Neville said a Metropolitan Police pilot project found just three per cent of street robberies in London were solved using CCTV images.

He claimed the vast swathes of money spent on cameras had been wasted because criminals don't fear the cameras.

But Mr Neville also castigated the police and claimed officers can't be bothered to seek out CCTV images because it's "hard work".

The comments from Mr Neville, who is the head of the Visual Images, Identifications and Detections Office (Viido) at Scotland Yard, will further cast doubt on the spread of surveillance in Britain.

Britain has one per cent of the world's population but, incredibly, 20 per cent of its CCTV cameras - the equivalent of one for every 14 people.

Last year it emerged the 200m spent on 10,000 crime-fighting cameras in London had had little effect on reducing offending.

A comparison of the number of cameras in each London borough with the proportion of crimes solved there found that police were no more likely to catch offenders in areas with hundreds of cameras than in those with hardly any.

Speaking at a security conference in London, Mr Neville claimed the use of CCTV images for court evidence had been very poor so far.

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He said: "CCTV was originally seen as a preventative measure.

"Billions of pounds have been spent on kit, but no thought has gone into how the police are going to use the images and how they will be used in court.

"It's been an utter fiasco: only three per cent of crimes were solved by CCTV.

"Why don't people fear it? They think the cameras are not working."

At the conference the Metropolitan Police unveiled a number of initiatives to boost conviction rates using CCTV evidence.

One, which will start from next month, involves putting images of suspects in muggings, rape and robbery cases on the internet.

In another Viido will examine whether it can use software developed to track advertising during televised football games to follow distinctive brands on suspects' clothing.

Even with such schemes, doubts remain over whether or not the expansion of 'Big Brother' Britain can cut crime.

The annual report into the government's DNA database earlier this year revealed the huge expansion of the scheme has brought fewer than a thousand criminals to justice.

For every 800 DNA samples being added by the police - including those taken from innocent people - only one crime is being solved.

Information Commissioner Richard Thomas has in the past warned the UK is in danger of "sleepwalking in a surveillance society".

Last night he said CCTV could play in important role in preventing and detecting crime.

However he added: "We would expect adequate safeguards to be put in place to ensure the images are only used for crime detection purposes, stored securely and that access to images is restricted to authorised individuals.

"We would have concerns if CCTV images of individuals going about their daily lives were retained."

The charity Victims Voice, which supports relatives of those who have been murdered, called for more effective use of CCTV.

Trustee Ed Usher said: "If handled properly it can be a superb preventative tool." (dailymail, 5.06.2008, Daniel Bates - More by this author)