Armchair CCTV watchers win cash by spotting thieves

The CCTV vigilantes paid to sit at home watching store security cameras in a bid to fight crime and catch shoplifters...

Anyone who owns a laptop or computer can now fight crime from the safety of their home and win cash prizes for catching thieves red-handed, under a new British monitoring scheme that went live this week.

The service works by employing an army of registered armchair snoopers who watch hours of CCTV footage from cameras in stores and high street venues across the country. Viewers can win up to £1,000 in cash a month from Devon-based firm Internet Eyes, which distributes the streaming footage when offenders are caught in the act.

The scheme immediately drew criticism from civil liberties campaigners who say it is more evidence that Britain has become a ‘Big Brother’ surveillance society with CCTV on every corner. Participants, who pay a fee to subscribe, press an ‘alert’ button, which relays an instant text message notifying a shopkeeper of suspicious behavior. The SMS is followed up with a photographic image of the potential crime.

Founder of Internet Eyes, Tony Morgan, said: ‘The problem with CCTV is that while cameras are practically everywhere, there’s hardly anyone watching them in real time. Most people know this, so CCTV is no longer the deterrent it used to be, and crime is rising.’

Industry body, the Center for Retail Research, says shoplifting is at record levels, costing the UK economy almost £5 billion annually.

Registered participants in the scheme must be over 18, are not able to choose which footage they see, nor view premises in their local area. The firm told Reuters it has 13,500 interested viewers from across the European Union and aims to have 3,000 paid-up members by the end of the year.

Charles Farrier of campaign group NO CCTV said the launch marked another disturbing chapter in the nation’s surveillance society. ‘The Information Commissioner has put private profit above personal privacy in allowing a private company to launch its Stasi-style citizen spy game rather than defending the rights of British citizens,’ he said.

What do you think? A clever anti-crime device or a breach of shopper’s privacy? Let us know your thoughts below…


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