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The recent surge in acid attacks in London and surrounding areas has sparked a great deal of concern of late, and with the NHS revealing that the number of victims requiring specialist treatment resulting from these types of attacks has doubled over the last three years, it seems acid has become the latest “weapon of choice”.
Unfortunately, one moment of thoughtless violence is causing irreversible harm, pain and mental trauma to these victims. With corrosive substances being so readily available to buy, extra measures must be taken to deter potential attackers and, once an attack is undertaken, the evidence must be strong enough that any perpetrators can be brought to justice.
CCTV has long been essential in deterring criminals. In fact, a recent study undertaken by Co-op insurance consulted 12 former criminals, with the results showing that CCTV cameras are their number one biggest deterrent. A greater density of surveillance cameras in clear view in public places is vital for reducing crime and the positive effects can potentially diffuse to other nearby areas too.
Where attack victims require immediate assistance to minimise the effects of the acid, CCTV camera operators can contact medical services if they see an incident taking place in real time, potentially saving victims from more severe injuries. In fact, the emergency services are called out an average of ten to 20 times for every 700 hours of observation.
More often than not, CCTV is the only form of hard evidence that can be used to attempt to find the perpetrator and ensure they are brought to justice. For example, after the 2011 London riots, police viewed over 200,000 hours of CCTV footage which allowed them to identify 5000 offenders who simply would not have been prosecuted if it wasn’t for high quality CCTV cameras. Further to this, even when cameras may not capture an image of the perpetrator, it will often show witnesses who can provide valuable information to an investigation. CCTV is highly effective in specific locations where good coverage can be ensured, such as in a nightclub or restaurant. Confined areas enable almost 100 percent coverage and means there are no blind spots which can be exploited by criminals.
Of course, other features which can contribute to greater quality include improved lighting and higher resolution cameras. Unfortunately, many businesses invest in low quality CCTV which, although potentially acts as a deterrent, does not give sufficient detail of any perpetrators and will not hold up as sufficient evidence in a court case.
Unfortunately many of the city’s CCTV systems are not maintained properly, which can lead to a variety of issues. Not recording properly is one such problem, whereby the live image is of good quality but the playback is poor. The location of cameras is another key issue which can often be overlooked, which is why consulting clients about their areas of concern before installation is vital. For example, in bars, aspects such as glass doors can be overlooked, however on camera, people will appear as silhouettes, meaning no facial recognition can take place. The most important area for positioning cameras is undoubtedly the entrances to ensure a clear head and shoulders shot for identification, as this is the only way identification will stand up in court.
At Knightsbridge Fire and Security, we always ensure a full service, from design right through to installation and regular maintenance, with a proactive security assessment every six months. Any additional risks or changes to the premises should always be taken into account, to ensure necessary repositioning can take place. This will ensure that no areas are hidden when it comes to protecting the public from these vicious attacks, which are becoming increasingly commonplace in London and surrounding areas.
Picture by Mark Rowe: CCTV, Bloomsbury, central London.