By James Slack
CCTV cameras [software] which can ‘predict’ if a crime is about to take place are being introduced on Britain’s streets.
The cameras can alert operators to suspicious behaviour, such as loitering and unusually slow walking. Anyone spotted could then have to explain their behaviour to a police officer.
CTV frame 1: Two men appear to be meeting on a deserted street. Is a crime about to happen?
CCTV frame 2: The two men are now seen exchanging words and perhaps something else. The operator is alerted
There are already 4.2million cameras trained on the public. The technology could be used alongside many of these to allow evermore advanced scrutiny of our movements.
The cameras, trained on public places, such as car parks, are being tested by Portsmouth City Council.
Computers are programmed to analyse the movements of people or vehicles in the camera frame.
The operator will then check the image and – if concerned – ring the police. The aim is to stop crimes before they are committed.
Councillor Jason Fazackarley of Portsmouth Council said: ‘[…] it never blinks, it never takes a break and it never gets bored.’
How it works: The CCTV system being used in Portsmouth to detect potential criminal behaviour
Government departments here are said to be interested in putting it to wider use.
The system, which has been running in several US cities, including New York, Washington and Chicago, is being given to Portsmouth for free.
By Christopher Hope
Officers or security guards can then confront a suspect before a crime is committed.
So far half a dozen cameras have been fitted with the new technology by the local council in Portsmouth.
Portsmouth council has access to up to 1,000 cameras. As many as 600 could be fitted with the new software.
It transforms CCTV cameras from being recorders of crime to taking a proactive role in preventing crime.
Typically the cameras divide the images into people, vehicles and background.
If someone is seen to loiter in an area for too long, it alerts security guards and the police.
Talks were continuing with 10 other local authorities. A 20 video channel system to monitor 100 cameras costs £25,000.
experts said the software – known as video content analysis – could soon be used by retailers to keep track on shoplifters or by employers to see if staff are taking too many cigarette breaks.
One said: “Video content analysis is tipped to be one of the most significant developments in the monitoring of people, goods and services in the developed world.”