Advocates of video surveillance say it has contributed to a long-term decline
in other crimes in Britain. Car thieves, in particular, seem deterred by
the prevalence of cameras on lampposts. But Dr. Murakami Wood noted the incidence of
violent crime actually slightly last year.
Just as video surveillance dose not prevent many crimes, it also apparently has less of
an effort on ordinary human behavior than some critics feared it would
when Britain began installing the cameras in earnest after a pair of Irish Republican Army
bombings in 1993 and 1994.
"There was a debate about whether is would deter normal people from doing things
in public places," Dr. Murakami Wood said. "But it hasn't induced conformity,
like some predicted.
That is good news to people like him, who worry about the erosion of privacy
for the average subway rider, not to mention for couples fancying a late-night tryst
in the street outside a pub. But for those who see the social benefits in CCTV monitoring,
the notion that people are becoming inured to the camera's gaze is worrisome.
The authorities have recently begun equipping some cameras with loud-speakers,
which allow human monitors to admonish people caught littering or brawling in the street.
The theory is that "shouting cameras" are harder to ingone. But critics say
they cross the line from crime prevention into public bullying.
There are questions about who is doing the monitoring -- a problem both of skills
and manpower, given the reams of videotape that the police must review
in the aftermath of crimes.
Still, in the perennial tug of war between security and privacy, security appears
to be winning. The next wave in CCTV, experts say, is to marry traditional surveillance
with computer software to make cameras better at detecting suspicious behavior
that can be the precursor to a crime.
More advanced applications include cameras that can be programmed to search for
specific objects -- say, an unattended bag in a subway station -- or for people
with suspisious mannerisms. Cameras that recognize facial characterastic are also
being developed, though their affectiveness has been hampered by the unpredictable
lighting in outdoor spaces.
"Some people are looking very hard at suicide bombers," said Peter Fry, director of
the CCTV User Group, a trade association. "You can possibly pick up mannerisms,
facial tics and so on. If that works, it would be a tremendous help in cases like these."
The problem, of course, is that the profile of a would-be suicied bomber keeps changing,
which may account for why the most dramatic images from the attack in June came
only after an Iraqi doctor rammed a Jeep into an airport terminal in Glasgow
and set it ablaze.