CHARLES GRAHAM - CCTV is boon not bane of our lives

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A NEW survey by a campaign organisation called Big Brother Watch has revealed that Wigan borough can now boast 823 council CCTV cameras monitoring its streets, alleys, precincts and housing estates.

It is pretty obvious, given the crusade’s name, which angle is being approached here: that civil liberties are being infringed by over-intrusive local authorities.

Yet to compare the monitoring of public places for security reasons with Orwell’s vision of a totalitarian society (compulsory Telescreens in every room of the house so the ruling party knows your every move even in private) is a ludicrously big leap to make.

Funnily enough, more people than ever before seem to be quite happy to expose their house interiors and intimate secrets to outside scrutiny through Facebook, Skype, reality shows and so forth but the difference is that no-one is forcing them to do so.

Indeed in this liberal regime in which we live, there would be public outrage if anyone tried to make it so or tried to plant cameras in anywhere other than public places unless for an undercover police sting.

Wigan borough has more cameras on its streets than most places in Britain, but that shouldn’t be a cause for concern. Rather one for reassurance. We aren’t going to be seeing more bobbies piling onto the streets any time soon, what with the ongoing austerity measures, so as far as I am concerned the next best thing is a pair of electronic eyes which can raise the alarm if you fall victim to a crime.

What really is the difference between a police officer or PCSO watching you walk down Standishgate or one of the staff sitting in the nearby central watch station doing the same?

You get mugged there and there’s a better chance of a bobby being quickly summoned if there’s a camera there, and a better chance of your getting justice through prosecution if there is film evidence should the felon get away.

Wigan Council has also been quick to point out that our cameras are a darn sight better value for money than some: £899 per gadget compared to £22,000 in Birmingham!.

Not so long since we published crime figures that show that Wigan is a safer place in which to live than anywhere else in Greater Manchester.

You can’t give CCTV all the credit for that, but as both a deterrent and a crime-cracking weapon it is certainly valuable.

And if you are not a criminal, then you should have absolutely nothing to fear from our camera network. In fact quite the opposite.