UK CCTV staff rebuff police official's criticism

The effectiveness of CCTV in the fight against crime has been brought into question after coming under fire from a senior police chief.

CCTV operators in Trowbridge and Warminster have hit back at claims made in the national press casting doubt on the effectiveness of the surveillance camera systems.

Detective Chief Inspector Mick Neville, the head of the Metropolitans Police's Visual Images, Identifications and Detections Office (Viido) claimed a huge investment in CCTV in London had failed to cut crime, describing the system as an utter fiasco', according to the BBC.

In the Guardian newspaper, he was quoted as saying: "Billions of pounds has 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."

In Wiltshire, CCTV images have been used to help solve and convict criminals in a number of high-profile crimes, including a murder investigation in Warminster in which a man was jailed for life.

Steve Howell, chief CCTV supervisor for the Warminster and Westbury division, said: "CCTV is a part of the big jigsaw puzzle in helping to solve cases of crime and sometimes the vital bit of the puzzle is held in CCTV."

In 2000, CCTV in Warminster proved crucial in securing the conviction of Christopher Randall, then aged 19, who was found guilty of the murder of 55-year-old Danny Doherty.

Mr Doherty had been hit more than 40 times with a knife and saucepan in the lounge of his ground floor flat in Westleigh.

Warminster's CCTV unit was described as instrumental' in discrediting Randall's version of events in which he claimed he had been abducted by Mr Doherty by knifepoint from the town centre.

Mr Howell, who is also a retained firemen, said CCTV wasn't all about convicting criminals, but also worked by deterring crime or by providing a duty of care to the vulnerable in society.

Using an example, he said CCTV operators could monitor young women out drinking late at night.

"If we think you are being followed we would bring that to the police's attention," he said.

Other examples where CCTV has proved crucial includes the town park disorders in Trowbridge last July following which four teenagers were jailed, two robberies at a sweet shop The Shires shopping centre in Trowbridge in April and the hunt for missing Warminster schoolgirl Zoe Evans' in 1997, where CCTV helped to eliminate certain areas from the police search. The body of the nine-year-old was later found in a badger set

Bill Austin, the lead officer for the CCTV forum group in Trowbridge and chairman of Pubwatch, said: "I have seen quite a lot of cases where CCTV has been used and successful. It is a very good tool for daytime and night time crime monitoring."