Big Brother is shouting at you (in the UK)
Big Brother is shouting at you
Last updated at 21:02pm on 16th September 2006
Big Brother is not only watching you - now he's
barking orders too. Britain's first 'talking' CCTV
cameras have arrived, publicly berating bad behaviour
and shaming offenders into acting more responsibly.
The system allows control room operators who spot any
anti-social acts - from dropping litter to late-night
brawls - to send out a verbal warning: 'We are
Middlesbrough has fitted loudspeakers on seven of its
158 cameras in an experiment already being hailed as a
success. Jack Bonner, who manages the system, said:
'It is one hell of a deterrent. It's one thing to know
that there are CCTV cameras about, but it's quite
another when they loudly point out what you have just
'Most people are so ashamed and embarrassed at being
caught they quickly slink off without further trouble.
'There was one incident when two men started fighting
outside a nightclub. One of the control room operators
warned them over the loudspeakers and they looked up,
startled, stopped fighting and scarpered in opposite
'This isn't about keeping tabs on people, it's about
making the streets safer for the law-abiding majority
and helping to change the attitudes of those who cause
trouble. It challenges unacceptable behaviour and
makes people think twice.'
The Mail on Sunday watched as a cyclist riding through
a pedestrian area was ordered to stop.
'Would the young man on the bike please get off and
walk as he is riding in a pedestrian area,' came the
The surprised youth stopped, and looked about. A look
of horror spread across his face as he realised the
voice was referring to him.
He dismounted and wheeled his bike through the crowded
streets, as instructed.
Law-abiding shopper Karen Margery, 40, was shocked to
hear the speakers spring into action as she walked
Afterwards she said: 'It's quite scary to realise that
your every move could be monitored - it really is like
'But Middlesbrough does have a big problem with
anti-social behaviour, so it is very reassuring.'
The scheme has been introduced by Middlesbrough mayor
Ray Mallon, a former police superintendent who was
dubbed Robocop for pioneering the zero-tolerance
approach to crime.
He believes the talking cameras will dramatically cut
not just anti-social behaviour, but violent crime,
And if the city centre scheme proves a success, it
will be extended into residential areas.
The control room operators have been given strict
guidelines about what commands they can give. Yelling
'Oi you, stop that', is not permitted.
Instead, their instructions make the following
suggestions: 'Warning - you are being monitored by
CCTV - Warning - you are in an alcohol-free zone,
please refrain from drinking'; and Warning - your
behaviour is being monitored by CCTV. It is being
recorded and the police are attending.'
Mr Bonner said: 'We always make the requests polite,
and if the offender obeys, the operator adds 'thank
you'. We think that's a nice finishing touch.
'It would appear that the offenders are the only ones
who find the audio cameras intrusive. The vast
majority of people welcome these cameras.
'Put it this way, we never have requests to remove
But civil rights campaigners have argued that the
talking cameras are no 'magic bullet', in the fight
Liberty spokesman Doug Jewell said: 'None of us likes
litterbugs or yobs playing up on a Saturday night, but
talking CCTV cameras are no substitute for police
officers on the beat.'
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It's not about what the adults think. Consider this
"generation zero" for the infants and toddlers who
will grow up not knowing a time when the Government
wasn't watching and correcting. Sad.
- R, Rhode Island, USA
Orwell's 1984 was a dire warning to ward off the
totalitrianism of public monitoring authorities. This
camera/speaker system is not 'like' Big Brother, it
'is' Big Brother incarnate. Monitoring public
behavior, except for emergency services, is
completelty unaccepatable in any free society and
should be received with outrage by responsible
citizens. It's a slippery slope to dictatorship and
reminicent of Hitler's Germany and Stalin's Soviet
Union. Don't let this situation prevail.
- Mike, Boston, USA
I don't think this would work in Atlanta. Nobody
cares. They would steal the cameras.
- David, Atlanta, USA