The History of CCTV

If you’ve been out today, there’s a very good chance that you’ve been caught on camera. As of 2016, there are about 350 million CCTV cameras worldwide. We have become a planet under surveillance.

In the Beginning

The CCTV camera has a somewhat inauspicious origin story. The technology was first used by Seimens AG for the Nazis in 1942.  The cameras were installed at Test Stand VII in Peenemunde, Germany, for observing the launch of V-2 rockets.

This was a very basic system that could only be used for live monitoring. They technology did not yet exist for such systems to record footage.

Rumble in the Jungle

One of the earliest applications of CCTV came via the world of boxing, where it was used as a form of pay-per-view theatre TV.

Boxing telecasts were broadcast live to a select number of venues where viewers paid for tickets to watch the fight live.

The first fight to be broadcast via CCTV was Joe Lewis vs. Joe Walcott in 1948. These telecasts grew in popularity, peaking with the iconic fights of Muhammad Ali in the 1960s and 1970s. Possibly his most famous tussle, the  Rumble in the Jungle  against George Foreman in Zaire (modern day Congo) drew  50 million CCTV viewers worldwide in 1974.

Fighting Crime

Although the city of Hamburg in Germany had used CCTV to monitor traffic coming to its annual industrial trade fair in the late 1950s, the first use of such systems to tackle crime, which is what we associate CCTV with today, began in the 1960s.

The UK became an early pioneer, when the Metropolitan Police used two temporary cameras in Trafalgar Square to monitor crowds who had come to see to the arrival of the Thai royal family.

The USA then set the pace, starting with the city of Olean, New York, which in 1968 became the first local authority to install video cameras along its main business street in an effort to fight crime. Olean’s example started a trend which would see several towns and cities across the USA adopt this new technology.

VCR- The Game Changer

A significant development in the history of CCTV occurred when video cassette recordings (VCRs) became widely available in the 1970s. This technology was quickly adopted and  incorporated into surveillance systems.

It was now no longer necessary for people to monitor the screens live. Instead, the systems could be set up and left to run independently. Users could then review what had been recorded at a later time. This made CCTV much more popular among businesses.

CCTV and the UK

CCTV has proven to be very popular amongst businesses, local authorities and police forces in the UK. The country’s citizens are amongst the most surveilled in the world. According to the British Security Industry Association (BSIA) there are between 4-5.9 million CCTV cameras in the country. There are 500,000 cameras in London alone, with some of most watched locations being:

Oxford Circus: 309 cameras
Green Park: 210 cameras
Bank/Monument: 182 cameras

It’s Not Big Brother!

Although the stereotypical image of the CCTV camera is that of one owned by the government (Big Brother is Watching You!), in reality the majority of cameras in the UK are  privately owned.

Why has CCTV Become so Popular?

Technical developments, such as the ability to record at night, digitisation and networking have helped broaden the appeal of the technology. But equally important has been the evidence that illustrates CCTV’s effectiveness in fighting crime.

For example, a 2009 review by researchers from Northeastern University and the University of Cambridge, which looked at over 40 different studies that  had researched the impact  of CCTV on crime levels, found that :

     CCTV caused a significant reduction of crime by on average 16 per cent
     The largest effects of CCTV were found in car parks, where cameras reduced crime by on average 51 per cent
     In  city and town centres CCTV schemes had 7 per cent reduction in crime and in public transport settings the reduction was 23 per cent

CCTV for Business
A recent study by the University of Leicester found what most businesses have realised for some time,  that CCTV is a great deterrent for pre-planned crime. It seems that criminals actively avoid stealing from premises that appear knowledgeable about crime and prevention.

Considering that the average burglary costs a business £1,376 per incident, it’s easy to understand why CCTV has become so popular and why so many businesses are willing to invest in it.

But There are Controversies

The expansion of CCTV, both in the UK and elsewhere, has not come without controversy. The idea of being constantly monitored, of the state being able to follow your every move has made some people wary and led others to suggest that we are heading towards a ‘surveillance society.’

There have also been concerns that the large amounts of cash spent on CCTV does not result in good value for money. Critics point out that the UK’s crime rate is not dissimilar to other, less surveillanced, countries and that the money invested in CCTV might be better spent on more police officers, local authority employees (park keepers, toilet attendants) or bus/train conductors.

The Future?

With new technology arriving, such as 4K, which can greatly enhance an image and lessen the number of cameras needed, it’s unlikely that we will see CCTV disappear from our streets any time soon. The UK fell in love with being watched and it's a romance that looks in no danger of fizzling out.

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Why Fire and Safety Training is Important

Concerns about fire safety are nothing new as the flames of history tells. Cities, homes, revered iconic buildings have all fallen prey to accidental fires throughout the ages.

We were taught in school about the Great Fire in Pudding Lane but did you know that as recently as the last decade of the 1800s there were 10 fires that each destroyed many acres of London, causing untold financial ruin and placing many thousands out of work?

Unfortunately, many lessons that have resulted in Health and Safety rules being put in place, were learnt the hard and all too often fatal way. On too many occasions it wasn’t a single lesson either, it had to happen multiple times before governments or governing bodies started to put rules in place as prevention.

Give Them a Fire Escape

Back in the 1930’s rules started to appear to ensure escape routes from burning buildings. In 1961 the public health act brought all the building regulations together into one set of rules and by 1965 these evolved into the building regulations which went on to incorporate the Fire Precautions Act 1971 which included means of escape in case of fire.

Public Theatres followed a similar path. There was The Glen Cinema in Paisley where 70 children were suffocated and crushed (1929). As a direct result of the Paisley fire, an amending regulation was issued to the Cinematograph Act 1909 regarding safe escapes.

And so it went with factories (Factories Acts of 1937, 1948 and 1959), shops and offices, (1963 Offices, Shops and Railway Premises Act – the clauses being modelled closely on the 1961 Factories Act), hotels, licensed premises and sports grounds.

The Picture Today

In 2005, the Government decided to bring fire safety legislation up to date via the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, which placed all the odd bits of fire legislation under one umbrella.

This, and the legacy of preventative legislation, has created a situation today where not only does the UK now have a clearer regulatory picture, the country also boasts a dramatically improved record on fire fatalities, as the graph below illustrates.

But just because a fire doesn’t result in a fatality doesn’t mean it can't have a catastrophic impact on those involved. The number of non-fatal casualties from fires in the UK for the year ending September 2017 stood at 3,297. Although also on a downward trend, when added to the number of fatalities, it represents a significant number of people affected.

And, as the Grenfell Tower tragedy of June 2017 - the worst residential fire in the United Kingdom since the Second World War - reminded us, horrifying events are not consigned to the past, proving we still have a way to go. Despite all the improvement, there were still 170,519 fires in the UK last year, a figure that remains worryingly high.

Insurance Isn’t the Same as the Law

Every business owner has certain responsibilities when it comes to the issue of fire. Insurance is one of these, covering the business should the worst occur. But although it can provide financial peace of mind, if a fire takes place it does not cover your legal obligations in this area.

Under the 2005 The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order, any person who has some level of control in premises must take reasonable steps to reduce the risk from fire and make sure people can safely escape if a fire occurs.

What Do I Need to Do? 

According to the Order, the ‘person in control’ must: 

     Carry out a fire-risk assessment identifying any possible dangers and risks

     Consider who may be especially at risk

     Get rid of or reduce the risk from fire as far as is reasonably possible and provide general fire precautions to deal with any possible risk left

     Take other measures to make sure there is protection if flammable or explosive materials are used or stored

     Create a plan to deal with any emergency and, in most cases, keep a record of the findings

     Review the findings when necessary

And What if I Don’t bother?

Aside from the risk to your employees and the public, you also run the risk of landing in serious trouble if it is proved that you have been negligent in any of the above should a fire take place.

The law places responsibilities on organisations and employers, and directors can be personally liable when these responsibilities are breached. If a fire occurs that could have been prevented, then depending on the severity of the outcome, either the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) or the Police could choose to investigate.

And the number of prosecutions is increasing. In the year to 31 March 2016, for example, the HSE prosecuted 46 company directors and managers, compared to just 12 for the year before. Of these, 12 were sentenced to prison. 

But Nothing Might Ever Happen?

Even if you’re lucky enough to not experience a fire, you can still get in trouble if your fire safety standards are poor. A visit from a local fire officer, as part of a fire safety audit will check that your fire risk assessment and fire prevention measures are appropriate.

If inadequate, the officer can issue an: 

     Alterations notice: You’re served this if your premises has high safety risks or will have high safety risks if the use of the premises changes.

     Enforcement notice: This is served if the fire and rescue authority finds a serious risk that’s not being managed. It will say what improvements are needed by when.

     Prohibition notice: This takes effect immediately if the fire and rescue authority thinks the fire risk is so great that access to your premises needs to be prohibited or restricted.

What if I ignore Them? 

Well, you could be fined or go to prison if you don’t follow fire safety regulations. Minor penalties can be up to £5,000. Major penalties can have unlimited fines and up to 2 years in prison.

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Caught Red Handed!

This offices CCTV system catches a criminal in the act as he steals a Macbook Pro, a Macmini, two Dell laptops & a Lenovo laptop.