When a London council decided to locate a CCTV camera in a quiet area of Camden the residents were delighted, especially as its declared purpose was to make the streets safer from muggers, drug dealers, burglars and car thieves. The £25,000 swivelling spy camera made them feel they were at last getting a tangible benefit from Camden’s rising council tax.
But it didn’t take long for them to discover it was going to cost a lot more — in ways they hadn’t expected. The camera proved not very good at identifying suspects lurking in the shadows but it was very good at reading residents’ car numberplates.
Since the Albert Street camera was installed last year its operators have issued 2,558 penalty notices for a range of minor motoring offences, such as double parking to unload groceries or allegedly blocking the flow of traffic.
CCTV images, left, record Jonathan Futrell pausing to pick up a friend in Albert Street. The car is stopped for less than a minute, but the result is still a fine.