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David_ruffleyShadow Home Office minister David Ruffley has posed an interesting written question:

"Mr. Ruffley: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment she has made of the (a) reliability and (b) usefulness of headcam technology in tackling crime; if she will make resources available to make this technology more widely available to the police; and if she will make a statement. [234473]

Mr. Alan Campbell: A pilot programme for body worn video (which includes head cameras) ran in Plymouth from September 2006 to April 2007. During the pilot the following key points were identified:

    Violent crime was reduced by 8 per cent in the pilot sectors (1 per cent. elsewhere);

    More serious violence was reduced by 18 per cent. (no change elsewhere);

    An increase of 85 per cent. in violent incidents resulting in an arrest;

    An increase of 40 per cent. in the number of violent crimes detected.

A number of providers supply body worn video devices. Individual police forces negotiate the best device to fit their needs. Kent police have demonstrated some excellent work in developing a bespoke device with a commercial provider.

The Home Office made a fund of £3 million available specifically to enable police forces across the country to widen their use of body worn video devices. This announcement was made on 12 July 2007, when guidance on the use of this equipment was published by PCSD, which was compiled with NPIA and the support of ACPO."

Politicians are right to look at the use of modern technology in tackling crime. Increasing the number of handheld weapons scanners was a key pledge of Boris Johnson’s Mayoral campaign. CCTV – whilst controversial – is a feature of our town and city centres. Automatic Number Plate Recognition can be employed by the police to read a car’s registration plate and then compare it with a database. This can be particularly helpful in anti-terrorism operations.

The London Mayor has also implemented New York-style crime mapping, where crime levels are indicated on an electronic map. This may be a useful tool for officers, but the idea is also that it will enable the public to hold the police to account more effectively, by making the public better informed.

But what technology can never do is take the place of effective beat policing. The number one priority should be to scrap red tape (without then failing to keep essential records) so that police officers can be a visible presence on the streets and nick criminals.

Declaration of interest: Tom Greeves was Boris Johnson’s crime adviser during the London Mayoral campaign.

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