COMMENT: Cameras have become part and parcel of everyday life

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Back in the 1990s there was an outcry in Portsmouth when the council announced it was setting up a pioneering CCTV system to monitor city centre hotspots.

A hub would be built in the civic offices in Guildhall Square and banks of monitors linked to the cameras would be monitored 24/7 as operators scoured the streets searching for villains.

Twenty-five years ago it was novel, yet treated with suspicion by many who saw the cameras as an infringement of their human rights.

Those politicians who saw this as a great way of cutting crime, at a time when the first rounds of swingeing cuts in Hampshire Constabulary’s budgets were taking effect, argued that if you had nothing to hide surely there was no problem?

It was difficult to argue against this case as crime figures were soaring with big rises in anti-social behaviour, which was a big driver in the introduction of these systems.

A quarter of a century later and the spies in the sky, usually on the top of big poles, are a grudgingly-accepted part of everyday life.

But they have proved their worth time and again, providing vital evidence in catching criminals. And as their technological capabilities improved, images became clearer and the number of convictions increased, the installation of cameras moved from just local authorities to private businesses anxious to protect their premises to householders keen to drive vandals and burglars from their streets.

The days of CCTV cameras panning around city centre or Southsea streets and the seafront have long gone. Now they’re everywhere, including Tangier Road, Baffins, as our story today reveals.

Three cameras have been set up there after councillors and residents said they had had enough of vandals smashing mirrors off cars, breaking windows and throwing eggs at shops – the result, allegedly, of the lack of a police presence.

It’s an interesting development and, unfortunately, a product of our times, but let’s hope they have the desired effect.