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Shropshire Star comment: Criminals wise to fact their misdemeanours go undetected

By Shropshire Star | Opinions | Published:

CCTV was hailed as a game-changing technology that would help to rid our towns of crime.

The theory ran that people in power would be able to observe criminals in our towns, gather evidence, prosecute and thereby make our streets safer.

Certainly, if we look around the globe such a trend is taking place. In China, for instance, vast sums of money are being spent on high-tech CCTV systems that include face recognition and artificial intelligence. There are parts of that vast nation where people cannot move without being observed.

In sleepy Shropshire, however, the same cannot be said. There are no civil rights protestors manning the barricades or complaining about an intrusion into their human rights. For the CCTV cameras installed in Shropshire cover a remarkably small area and are all-too-often switched off because there are insufficient resources to use them.

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Criminals are wise to the fact that their misdemeanours go undetected and in many ways we are now no further forward than we were 20 years ago when cameras were becoming commonplace. The quality of images that are harvested is poor, the ability of police to sift through tapes is in doubt, the cost of using CCTV is prohibitive. We are back to square one.

A debate is taking place in numerous towns in the region about how areas should be covered by CCTV and who will pay for it.

Generally CCTV is a positive development not just for petty crime but for issues of national security. And perhaps it is time for us to embrace the technology that is successfully used in other parts of the world and introduce systems that bring about a drastic reduction in crime, albeit at the price of our civil liberty.

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Whatever the pros and cons, the truth is that change is unlikely. It would require huge investment and in these post-austerity times, money simply isn’t available. Boris Johnson’s new Government might not be as parsimonious as his predecessors’, but the money required to make systems operable and fit for purpose is not available and is unlikely to be so in the foreseeable future.

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The decision of Jess Phillips to withdraw from the Labour leadership race comes as no surprise. As the Birmingham politician has said – though not in so many words – this is not her time.

And yet the leadership race and the Labour Party are the poorer for her withdrawal. She would certainly have made Prime Minister’s questions interesting, and Boris Johnson would have found her a formidable opponent at the dispatch box.

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The Labour Party finds itself in a hole of its own making. And it is difficult to see an immediate route back to power in five years, though unforeseen events might change that.

As regards Phillips, the future is undoubtedly bright. She will not be the Neil Kinnock or John Smith figure who remoulds the party but fails to win power. And while she may be down, she is certainly not out.

One only has to look at the example of another charismatic politician who failed at the first attempt, retreated to the wilderness and then fulfilled his ambition to become Prime Minister: Boris Johnson.

It remains entirely possible that Phillips will follow his path.

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