Big Brother is watching you...

PUBLISHED: 16:21 29 November 2007 | UPDATED: 21:52 29 May 2010

There are 24 CCTV cameras around the Uttlesford area

There are 24 CCTV cameras around the Uttlesford area

ARE you a secret television star? The growing number of CCTV cameras in operation means that more and more of us are being filmed, without even realising it. There are 24 CCTV cameras in operation in town centres around Uttlesford and that number is set

ARE you a secret television star? The growing number of CCTV cameras in operation means that more and more of us are being filmed, without even realising it.

There are 24 CCTV cameras in operation in town centres around Uttlesford and that number is set to grow.

The cameras provide an ever watchful eye looking over us; acting as a deterrent to would-be criminals and helping the police to solve crimes, but at what price?

Saffron Walden leads the way in the surveillance stakes with 14 cameras dotted around the town centre, Dunmow is next with six and Stansted has four.

Introduced in 2001, Saffron Walden piloted three cameras and within six months this had been increased to 14. Now, the town council has plans to introduce two more: one at the skate park and one on the common.

Saffron Walden town clerk Malcolm White said: "We are bringing in the cameras to improve safety and security. The CCTV already in operation has been very successful and we have had a number of prosecutions as a result."

Great Dunmow does not have any immediate plans to increase the number of cameras. Town clerk Owen Wilson said the cameras "certainly act as a discouragement to crime", but he did admit that "they have resulted in a displacement of problems" to areas that are not monitored.

Uttlesford's crime reduction advisor Peter Caulfield said: "The first week the cameras were activated we got about seven or eight arrests for shop lifting.

"People are used to them now, and they feel safer with them there."

Mr Caulfield said the cameras were not monitored 24 seven, but on an ad hoc basis. "They are very efficient at solving crimes," he said. "They are used to support specific police operations, but are also monitored randomly."

In the run up to Christmas, with more people coming into the town centres to shop for presents or for nights out the surveillance will be monitored more closely, especially at peak times like Friday nights and on weekends.

Mr Caulfield agrees that the cameras are like a Big Brother watching over us, but insists that this is a good thing and protects our welfare. He is also confident that the system cannot be abused.

"There are very strict guidelines about how they are used," he said. "For example we couldn't use them to issue parking fines because it is against the code of practice.

"Only prosecuting powers such as the police, customs and excise, Trading Standards and Uttlesford District Council have access to the cameras."

Nationwide there are more than four million CCTV cameras - about one for every 14 people - making Britain one of the most watched places on earth.

What do you think? Let us know by e-mailing alistair.nelson@archant.co.uk

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