Littter Bugs and Minor Offenders Beware

According to the York Press, The United Kingdom is preparing to expand its network of "talking" surveillance cameras to 20 additional metropolitan areas, according to an announcement from Home Secretary John Reid. The talking surveillance camera system has been piloted in Middlesbrough, where by all accounts it has been hugely successful in deterring crime and vandalism, although it has been criticized for its privacy implications.

A central control houses the video feeds from the CCTV cameras, and CCTV control center operators monitor the feeds. If the operators see someone engaging in illegal activity on camera, a simple press of a button allows them to communicate with the law-breaker, via an audio component on each of the cameras. For example, if a person is seen littering on camera, an operator will immediately use the camera to speak to the litterbug.

"They will say something like, 'The gentleman in the red shirt, you have been witnessed dropping litter. Kindly pick it up and put it in the bin provided.'" said Jack Bonner, Middlesbrough town security manager. Bonner said 95 percent of the litterbugs have complied with these requests, and those that do receive a kindly "thank you."

In a recent example, camera system operators noticed three youths who climbed atop the roof of a Pizza Hut restaurant and began destroying the neon sign; upon command, the vandals stopped the destruction and even put the sign back together before fleeing.


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