The CCTV cameras are slowly being switched off in Britain’s austerity hit streets and town centres as, one by one, skint local councils and police forces decide they are not worth the overheads.
Before the money ran out, CCTV was the darling of crime prevention. In the 1990s, the Home Office spent three quarters of its entire crime prevention budget on CCTV cameras.
Fuelled by the grainy images of Jamie Bulger being led from Bootle shopping centre by his young killers, the government spent £500 million between 1996 and 2006 on making the British population the most watched on earth. At around 4 million cameras, Britain has more CCTV than the rest of Europe put together.
Banksy built his career on the haunting, iconic image of the Closed Circuit TV camera. He summed up the uneasiness some felt under the glare of street surveillance when he drew a boy in a red jacket daubing “One Nation Under CCTV” in huge white capitals next to a CCTV camera on a wall off Oxford Street in 2008. It was soon white-washed by Westminster Council.