Talking" closed-circuit television
(CCTV) cameras which allow operators to shout at people behaving badly
are to be installed across England, the government announced Wednesday.
The scheme lets local council workers in a control centre monitor
pictures from the cameras and talk to them if they feel they are doing
The cameras were piloted in Middlesbrough, north-east England,
where they have been used to reprimand vandals and litter bugs, but now
loudspeakers are being fitted to cameras in another 20 areas.
Britain has some 4.2 million CCTV cameras
and the government's privacy watchdog, Information Commissioner Richard
Thomas, warned last year that the nation risks "sleep-walking into a surveillance society".
Human rights group Privacy International says Britain is the worst
country in the European Union at protecting individuals' privacy,
citing "endemic surveillance".
And a powerful group of lawmakers -- the House of Commons home affairs select committee -- is to hold an inquiry into the extent of surveillance in Britain this year.
The "talking CCTV" move comes as Prime Minister Tony Blair's
administration attempts to impose a "respect agenda" by cracking down
on petty anti-social behaviour.
Home Secretary John Reid
defended the scheme, saying it was aimed at "the small minority who
think it is acceptable to litter our streets, vandalise our communities
and damage our properties."
Reid added that schools in many
areas were holding competitions for children to become the "voice" of
The scheme is likely to cost around 500,000 pounds (740,000 euros, 988,000 dollars).