The History Of CCTV In The UK

The History Of CCTV In The UK

The earliest usage of Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) actually dates back to 1942 when it was first used by the military in Germany. The military used remote cameras with black and white monitors to observe the launch of V2 rockets. During the 1940's the US military also used CCTV when developing and testing atomic weapons, as this allowed them to observe the tests from a safe distance.

In the years since that time CCTV has become very common in non government and military sites. In the 1970's and 1980's CCTV was commonly used as an added security measure in banks. Many other retailers also began to use these CCTV's in their stores as a method to both prevent and record any possible crime. They are extremely popular in convenience stores and gas stations. Gas stations have used them to record drivers who leave without paying for their gas. There is no proof that CCTV's decreased crime rates, but they have been very successful in helping to apprehend criminals who were recorded in the act.

CCTV's also became very useful in monitoring traffic. Britain first started using them for this purpose and thousands of cameras were placed all over the city to monitor traffic and to see if there were accidents. Since that time they have been placed in vehicles such as taxis, buses and trains. They have also been placed in private areas such as parking lots to attempt to decrease instances of vandalism. In the 1990's certain cities in the US and Canada used these CCTV's to track traffic violators and in turn they were sent tickets automatically after getting caught on tape.

Today CCTV’s are very common in the home. Many homes with security systems have these installed as an added security feature to prevent break-ins or unwelcome intruders. They are also used in many public areas including schools and airports to record any suspicious activity.

These cameras have also changed over the years. They were once large white boxes that could not zoom in or out or follow objects closely. Today they can be small in size and hidden not to be noticed. They have many advanced features including higher definition and being able to detect and follow motion in areas where there should be none.


1913: secretive photography of imprisoned suffragettes begins.

1949: publication of George Orwell's 1984, which is set in London.

1960: Metropolitan Police use two temporary cameras in Trafalgar Square to monitor crowds attracted to the arrival of the Thai royal family.

5 November 1960: Metropolitan Police use two temporary cameras in Trafalgar Square to monitor "Guy Fawkes Day" activity.

1961: installtion of video surveillance system at a London Transport train station.

1964: Liverpool police experiment with four covert CCTV cameras in the city's center.

1965: British Railways installs cameras to watch tracks near Dagenham that had been vandalized.

1967: Photoscan (business) markets video surveillance systems to retail outlets as a means of deterring and catching shoplifters.

October 1968: Metropolitan Police use temporary cameras in Grosvenor Square to monitor anto-Vietnam War demonstrators.

1969: Metropolitan Police install permanent cameras in Grosvenor Square, Whitehall and Parliament Square. Total number of cameras nationally: 67.

1974: installation of video surveillance systems to monitor traffic on the major arterial roads in and through London.

1975: installation of video surveillance system in four London Underground train stations.

1975: use of video surveillance systems at soccer matches begins.

1984: installation of surveillance cameras at major rallying points for public protest in central London. Picketers surveilled during miners' strike.

August 1985: installation of street-based video surveillance system in Bournemouth, a south coast seaside resort.

1987: use of video surveillance systems at parking garages owned by local authorities begins.

1988: installation of video surveillance systems at "council estates" run by local authorities.

1989: civil rights group Liberty publishes Who's watching you? video surveillance in public places.

1992: installation of street-based video surveillance system in Newcastle (a major northern city). The system in Newcastle is closed-circuit television (CCTV) that uses microwaves (an open circuit) to link to the city's main police station.

1992: use of speed cameras and red-light enforcement cameras on the national road network begins.

August 1993: bombing of Bishopsgate in London by the IRA leads to the construction of the "Ring of Steel" around the City (London financial district). Measures include street-based surveillance cameras.

1994: central government (the Home Office) publishes CCTV: Looking Out for You. Prime Minister John Major states: "I have no doubt we will hear some protest about a threat to civil liberties. Well, I have no sympathy whatsoever for so-called liberties of that kind." Between 1994 and 1997, the Home Office spends a total of 38 million pounds of CCTV schemes.


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