Wednesday, November 8, 2006

survellience society: cctv 'security' bonanza for london bus companies who sell 'video nasties'

Above: CCTV on a London Bus. You watching them, watching you, watch them. Don't worry - if you get stabbed, we will be able to sell the footage.

According to 'Transport for London' there are 55-60,000 thousand CCTV cameras on London buses and each bus has 6 - 12 cameras. At least one camera points out into the street. The cameras take high resolution digital 'JPEG' images every few seconds which are stored on a computer hard drive, rumored to be under the drivers seat.


This new 'film industry' is expanding into Britain's version of 'Bollywood'; a 'Bendy-bus-wood' high tech film industry dealing with massive amounts of digital photographic data - possibly more than on 'youtube'.

The bus companies now employ not only bus drivers - but film editors and computer geeks in ever expanding film departments.

The 'stars' of this new 'video-nasty' industry are unknowns with walk on parts; criminals and their passenger victims, who typically perform as stabbing victims and having their pockets picked.

Sometimes the CCTV films get massive audiences - for example a 'block-buster' such as a 'live' terrorist appearance may get broadcast on every TV channel (and radio station if it was possible), 24 hours a day for a year, followed by 'flash back' repeats for the rest of time.


The main paying audience however are the police who are forced to 'pay-to-view' by the transport companies every time there in an 'incident' - ie several times a day.

Personally I do not see anything wrong with CCTV on buses. Society needs, and deserves protection. From personal experience on the 29 Bendy-Bus in London, the chances of being involved in some kind of theft 'incident' leap 200% the moment you get aboard - and that's with 12 CCTV cameras taking evidence every few seconds.


However I suspect the public is being robbed twice - first by the robbers, and then by the bus companies.

How much exactly are the transport companies charging the police for the CCTV footage? I suspect the bus companies may be profiting more from the crimes than the thieves! This could be highway robbery on a massive scale - probably for millions.

Everyone certainly seems very cagey about how much the CCTV footage costs.

'Transport for London' deny a 'CCTV Industry' is developing. Yet just the collection of the data from the 55-60,000 cameras which they admit to is an industry - that's bigger than Jessups. Transport for London say they are currently negotiating a pricing structure with the bus companies. Jessups do a photo CD for £1.99. I just can't believe the bus companies are not charging more than than - a lot more.


A few days ago I decided to get on the phone and try to find out how much the police had to pay for the footage. No one wanted to tell me.

Being British, I rang Scotland Yard. They said CCTV on buses was a matter for the London Transport Police. This seemed reasonable - until I rang the London Transport Police, and they said 'Can you tell the Metropolitian Police that we are not responsible for policing the buses - they are." I rang Transport for London, they said "Ring 'Arriva'" (the bus company with more TV cameras than the BBC). I rang 'Arriva', they said "Ring 'Transport for London'" ....

So, to cut short a long story, (which includes Scotland Yard refusing to break under interrogation), I have taken advantage of the excellent scheme operated by the Metropolitian Police and applied for the information under the 'Freedom of Information Act 2000'.

I have asked Scotland Yard three simple questions: 1. How much does the Metropolitan Police have to pay for CCTV images taken on buses in London due to a reported incident or an investigation? 2. Is there a price for each image? 3. Is there a price for a search request? Watch this space - according to the law there should be a reply within 20 days.


Don't get me wrong:
Although 'left wing' (and left handed), I am not a paranoid, conspiracy pedaling, hang wringing, 'Independent' reading, fashion victim 'anarchist' type, campaigning to abandon Iraq (and London) to religious fundamentalism, mob rule, and dictatorship, while whining about the 'erosion of human rights'.

I have no problem with CCTV on the buses or the underground - in fact I want to buy a CCTV camera to try to stop people stealing my bike. Then, if it happens again (as it probably will, despite the obvious camera) - maybe I can sell the footage to the police.

The rule of law is required if we are to live in a free society - free of bullies, free of violence, free of intimidation, muggers, and bike stealer's, not to mention criminal corporations and people selling 'Lordships'.

However, instead of being all seeing and all knowing, it appears 'Big Brother' is actually asleep most of the time - probably on a couch in the 'Home Office' with the telly left on.

When the gangs on the estates are more organised than the police, CCTV helps sustain the rule of law.

I just wish I had a CCTV camera trained on my bike when it got stolen from outside the schmoo 'safe house' recently. Where was 'Big Brother' then?

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