“CCTV Footage” – An Analysis.

By Veronica Chapman, 26th August, 2005

 

Preface.

I do not have a TV. I obtain all of my information from the Internet. Also, as you will see, from personal experience.

In point of fact, the first I heard about the London Bombings was when I downloaded my e-mails, and received one from Namaste Magazine on 7th July, 2005 in mid-afternoon. I read it, and brought up the BBC News WebSite for more information.

The reason I mention this is to explain that I have not been subject to any 'brainwashing' by the mainstream media. All of my information has come from news articles posted on the web, exchanges of e-mails, and posts in various forums.

And experience, as I mentioned earlier. By that I mean that I drove buses in South-West London for approximately 3½ years, and still retain very good contacts within the company for which I used to work.

Now let’s get down to brass tacks.

According to UrbanEye.net, by 2003 London was blessed with some 373 systems, which supported 1,200 cameras. However these are cameras that have been integrated into the City’s banks and offices. Externally, Oxford Street alone had 35 cameras monitored centrally from Marylebone Police Station, and the Parliamentary Estate itself is monitored by 260 cameras. (Nevertheless Fathers4Justice still managed to throw their bags of flour).

In 2003, 131 (out of 176) of the Main Line Rail Network train stations were graced with cameras.

Norris and Armstrong noted, in 1999, that a citizen in London can expect to be “filmed by over 300 cameras on over 30 separate CCTV systems, per day”.

And that is just the ‘external surveillance’ that’s taking place. It does not include, for example, surveillance systems in Petrol Stations, and the like.

And it does not take account of the surveillance that is occurring ‘internally’, for example when you board a bus, or a tube train.

 

Facts.

According to the Independent, “London Underground has installed more than 6,000 CCTV cameras across the network, some of them at stations and some on trains. Plans are in place to double the number in use by 2010 as part of its campaign to minimise petty crime, but also to deal with the increasing threat of terrorism. All but 15 of the cameras use traditional analogue technology involving tapes. The small number of newly installed devices use the digital system. A spokesman said the new technology would be employed from now on wherever Tube stations were being refurbished.

Translated, this means that, in the case of London Underground – particularly the stations - analogue video recordings of Closed Circuit Television surveillance is employed, on standard VHS video tapes. These tapes are kept for 14 days, and then re-used.

But this method has pretty obvious drawbacks in the case where information from it is required. The only method of pinpointing the essential sequence is to play the recording – generally in fast forward mode – until the required timescale is approached. Even in fast forward mode this can be quite time-consuming. And then another recorder is required to cross-record (for the purposes of evidence) the appropriate time segment. And another drawback is that, because standard TV methodology is used, a considerable amount of definition (image quality) is lost.

The first thing to understand is that while “CCTV Footage” is generally the term used by the press, in some cases it isn’t. Closed Circuit Television, that is. The Independent article mentions the new digital technology. This is employed at (apparently) only 15 locations within London Underground at this time (August, 2005) – but it is the technology employed on all buses.

The ‘new digital technology’ overcomes the limitations of the ‘old analogue technology’ to a greater or lesser degree. In the new systems, the pictures taken are ‘still’ images – snapshots – taken (generally) at approximately 3-second intervals. They are stored on removable Hard Discs, located within the transport vehicle (bus, train, etc.). These form a series of .JPG files, dated, timed and associated with each specific camera. On a bus, this removable Hard Drive is housed in a compartment behind the Driver. The cameras are ‘automatic’. Contrary to news reports, they are not controlled by a Driver. They switch on automatically when the vehicle starts up. The only time they are 'off' is when the engine is not running. So there is no argument about “forgetting to switch on the cameras”.

These pictures are much better quality than video, and easier to locate (by File Name). The drawbacks of this new technology are that – if the incident occurs between snapshots – then there will only be pictures before, and after, the event itself. The second drawback is also pretty obvious – if the Hard Drive fails, then all attached cameras ‘fail’, in unison.

According to the BBC there are cameras located at each end of a tube train carriage. In the case of buses there are 8 cameras on each double-decker, and 6-7 on a single decker. On a bus, 4 of these point outwards (NSEW*), and the remainder show various aspects of the passenger areas (including the Driver, and passengers boarding).

(* Consequently you are under surveillance each time bus passes you by).

It should be noted that this new digital system does not – at this time – provide storage for any audio.

While it is true that much of the ‘external’ camera surveillance is operated by the police (or their direct agents), in the case of ‘internal’ surveillance this is not the case. The internal surveillance on buses and trains is administered by the operating companies. It is only in this way that it can be seamlessly integrated with the day-to-day running of the service itself. And, furthermore, a lot of the information is used to resolve ‘minor’ disputes – for example disputes with passengers, and road traffic accidents, often for insurance purposes.

In other words, the operating company (be it Tube Lines or a Bus Company), ‘owns’ the pictures taken by its equipment. And, furthermore, they now employ specialised departments to administer the pictures. Obviously these departments are staffed by people experienced in the service, and can therefore integrate their activities without undue disruption to it.

In the past, the police were entitled to call up as much of this gathered surveillance as they demanded. This created an undue workload on operating company’s CCTV departments. For example, the police might demand ‘a whole days-worth’, for an incident that occurred late afternoon.

During last year (2004) this situation was formalised. The police now pay for the footage they request. This acts as a control to ensure that demands are not excessive. Consequently internal surveillance activity has turned into ‘a business’. And, since 70% of the footage analysed by the operating companies is at police request, it is now ‘financially rewarding’. So rewarding that it is taken very seriously indeed.

 

Conclusions.

The foregoing facts, including the fiscal attitudes of the operating companies, explains why, when I read reports of “CCTVs not working”, personally speaking I find it very hard to believe.

In the cut-throat business world of today, a lot of money goes down the drain if the surveillance is not available on request. That is looking at it in purely pragmatic terms, of course, but that is exactly the way that the operating companies look at it. (I say that on the basis of having worked for, and having close contact with, two local Bus Companies in South West London).

And furthermore, during normal operations, a ‘non-working’ mechanism is likely to picked up very quickly. The CCTV Departments are (currently) inundated with requests, and are expanding rapidly in order to cope.

During the weekend following the 7/7/7 London Bombings (2005 = 2 + 0 + 0 + 5 = 7), the operating companies did a thorough check of all their surveillance equipment, for ‘emergency’ maintenance purposes.

The result of this checkout, for my local garage, was that '3 out of 130 buses were found malfunctioning'. The checks were produced in order to mark the buses for engineering maintenance, and therefore did not identify the specific reasons. Consequently it is impossible say whether this failure rate is per camera, or per Hard Drive. As previously stated, a failed Hard Drive means that all 8 cameras will fail. However at worst (i.e. Bus Hard Drives) this is only a 2% failure rate.

It is surely noticeable that we are constantly lambasted with all of the ‘good’ that CCTV surveillance will achieve and yet, at the very time they are needed, they almost always ‘fail’. The London Bombings, the incident on Stockwell Station, the death of Princess Diana, are all examples of this.

There is a considerable similarity (is there not?) between all of these ‘failures at the wrong time’, and the ‘computer error’ syndrome. Where a ‘computer error’ – a physical impossibility for a functioning system – is blamed as a ‘catch-all’ to cover up for all manner of human errors – either real or imagined.

In the case of news reporting, it is always best to remember that and uninformed witness or policeman relates a story to an uninformed journalist, who then writes an uninformed article - which is reviewed by an uninformed editor. And that is what gets printed.

The truth is often somewhat different in many important respects.

 

Factoid related to my article “A Summary Execution In London”.

As soon as a murder is reported, the police have an immediate £50,000 budget available for investigation.

I don't know how significant this might be. I suppose it depends on whether or not Mr. de Menezes was considered 'lawfully killed' or murdered.

It is hard to see how a 'lawful killing' can be applied to 'an innocent man', in law that is (as opposed to Blairite Policy). It is also hard to see how the question of lawful killing versus murder can be established without investigation. Thanks to the IPCC we know that sufficient CCTV footage actually exists, and we also know that the perpetrators were in the employ of the police force.

Consequently the police should have, at their disposal, £50,000 in funds to investigate the death of Mr. de Menezes and, furthermore, it should be one of the easiest investigations they could ever be asked to undertake. What are they doing with this budget? What have we had from the police in the way of information? Little other than obfuscation, I suggest. Only the efforts of the IPCC, Mr. de Menezes’ relatives, and the family’s lawyers have presented us with any apparent ‘truths’.

The police appear to be using up their budget in order to fund a cover-up. Or, at least, this is the way it looks from my personal point of view.