England's Green and Surveilled Land


The BBC has some pretty graphics charting, on the basis of information from various UK municipalities, the growth of CCTV on Airstrip One. It's not pretty:

One of the most dramatic revelations is that both the Shetland Islands Council and Corby Borough Council—among the smallest local authorities in the UK—have more CCTV cameras than the San Francisco Police Department….

The borough of Wandsworth has the highest number of CCTV cameras in London, with just under four cameras per 1,000 people. Its total number of cameras—1,113—is more than the police departments of Boston [USA], Johannesburg and Dublin City Council combined.

The kicker: This follows the revelation that there are "almost one million fewer CCTV cameras in the UK than previously thought."

Also, check out this Beeb video on the ambiguities of CCTV—how many cameras there are, how effective the system is at stopping and solving crimes, and how large the opportunity cost of surveillance spending is.

Link via Boing Boing.

Reason has been onto this surveillance thing for a while. Senior Editor Radley Balko blogged about a CCTV music video last year, and Brendan O'Neill wrote about the (British) right to "excessively noisy sex" for Reason in May. Way back in 1997, Brian Taylor wrote about the arrival of limey-style CCTV in America.

NEXT: Reason Writers Around Town: Gillespie & Welch's Wash Post Online Discussion of Obama's Faltering Agenda

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  1. Be seein’ ya.

  2. San Francisco and Boston are both tiny cities as far as area goes, so that smells like freshly picked cherries. Note that they didn’t compare it to New York, Los Angeles, or Chicago.

    Also it’s possible that we just have a higher percentage of CCTV cameras owned by private interests here in the US.

  3. But they need them to protect us from the terrors that are coming across space to eat our brains. See Charles Stross’s “The Concrete Jungle” for the master plan.

  4. Syd, i don’t recall seeing you on the list of people with MAGINOT BLUE STARS clearance. You’ll be hearing from the Auditors.

  5. Why do they have so many cameras on the Orkneys? I thought with Arthur resting in Avalon, the blood-feud would have been forgotten.

  6. San Fran: 46.7 sq. mi.
    Boston: 48.3 sq. mi.
    Wandsworth (Borough of London): 13.2 sq. mi.
    Corby: 31 sq. mi.

    So sayeth the Wikipedia Machine.

    Though Boston and San Francisco are both tiny cities, they’re both much, much larger (on their own) than Wandsworth Borough or the town of Corby. The suggestion that we should be comparing Corby or Wandsworth to Los Angeles or New York is…off, I think. Obviously.

    The idea that a larger proportion of US CCTV might be privately owned is interesting, though it’s important to consider the different uses to which public and private CCTV feeds are put, and the different places in which public and private CCTV cameras are likely to be put.

  7. San Francisco and Boston are both tiny cities as far as area goes, so that smells like freshly picked cherries.

    Uh, they compared the borough of Wandsworth to San Francisco, Boston, Johannesburg and Dublin combined. Yeah, I’m sure comparing a small borough to four major international cities is really cherry picking.

    For the record, the combined areas of those cities is almost 800 sq. mi. with a combined population of almost 6 million (just counting city, not metro population and only land area). The Borough of Wandsworth, on the other hand, has an area of about 13 sq. mi. and a population of about 280,000.

    Come on, it’s one thing to be contrarian, it’s another to just be knee-jerk contrarian without even thinking about what you’re saying. To claim that somehow that’s not a fair comparison because of the small areas of SF and Boston is laughably absurd.

    Also it’s possible that we just have a higher percentage of CCTV cameras owned by private interests here in the US.

    And this is relevant to the surveillance state how? Are you really claiming the local Home Depot’s surveillance camera watching its lawn and garden center is somehow equivalent to the police watching you on every street corner? Are just playing dumb or is this for real?

  8. Eh, I see Bill beat me to it…

  9. Nice Wm. Blake reference. Not that I even begin to understand about 90% of his poems…

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