Precrime CCTV Cameras Now In Britain

'Precrime' CCTV (closed circuit television) cameras and their associated software are now able to "predict" if a crime is about to be committed. The system is the product of Smart CCTV.

Rather than merely analyzing individual frames, the software can alert operators to suspicious behavior, like unusually slow walking or loitering.

In this first frame from one of Britain's 'precrime' CCTV cameras, two men appear to approach one another on an otherwise deserted street. Could a meeting of criminal masterminds be in the offing?


(Precrime CCTV frame 1: A meeting?)

In the second frame below, the two men are exchanging words and possibly more. Is this some sort of transaction? The system alerts the operator.


(Precrime CCTV frame 2: A transaction?)

British officials are beside themselves with joy at this new toy:

Councillor Jason Fazackarley of Portsmouth Council said: 'It's the 21st century equivalent of a nightwatchman, but unlike a night-watchman it never blinks, it never takes a break and it never gets bored.'

British citizens, who are currently being watched by 4.2 million CCTV cameras, are understandably a bit concerned. One Daily Mail reader comments on the story:

The presence of fully trained Police is the proven best deterrent. Britain is the most 'spied on' nation in the EU - some say the world - the results being the highest crime and drug rates recorded. Proposals are, therefore, a total waste of taxpayers money and a gross infringment on privacy and freedom for all law abiding citizens. Spend the money on recruiting fully trained (not cheap, profit making versions) of police officers ...... criminals can immobolize CCTV cameras but not police presence.

Nick Hewitson, managing director of Smart CCTV, which has created the technology, denied it was a further infringement on privacy.

SF readers of course remember the somewhat more labor-intensive precrime analytical wing from the 1956 story Minority Report, by Philip K. Dick. In the story, precognitives (precogs) who could see into the future were used to predict crimes of passion before they happened.

Doors opened and closed, and they were in the analytical wing. Ahead of them rose impressive banks of equipment - the data-receptors, and the computing mechanisms that studied and restructured the incoming material. And beyond the machinery sat the three precogs, almost lost to view in the maze of wiring...

In the gloomy half-darkness the three idiots sat babbling. Every incoherent utterance, every random syllable, was analyzed, compared and reassembled in the form of visual symbols, transcribed on conventional punchcards, and ejected into various coded slots. All day long the idiots babbled, imprisoned in their special high-backed chairs, held in one rigid position by metal bands, and bundles of wiring, clamps... (Read more about the precrime analytical wing)

In Steven Spielberg's 2002 movie Minority Report made from Dick's story, Precrime police officer Tom Cruise uses a cool glove gesture interface to find the visual images needed to make a case. Take a look at this gesture interface excerpt from Minority Report to see how the computer system can be used to find crimes before they happen.

Peruse this retrospective of real-life 'precrime' systems:

From Daily Mail; thanks to Moira for the tip on this story.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 11/28/2008)

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