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How many CCTV Cameras are there in London?
Research by CCTV.co.uk concludes that in London there is now 1 CCTV Camera for every 13 people, meaning there are now 691,000 CCTV Cameras in London (2020/21)
London is often called the CCTV capital of the world, and for good reason. The city is home to hundreds of thousands of CCTV cameras, and the average Londoner is caught on CCTV 300 times a day.
We can say with some certainty that London is one of the most heavily monitored cities in the world, but putting an exact figure on the number of CCTV cameras is much trickier. London’s CCTV is a mixture of government surveillance, business security, and private home cctv systems owned by individuals.
Different types of CCTV are logged differently and some do not have to be registered at all, meaning that any figure is bound to be a ‘guesstimate.’ Even so, there are a number of sources we can use to make our guess as educated as possible.
There are now 691,000 CCTV cameras in London
A quick Google search of “How many CCTV cameras are there in London?” will often provide a figure of around 500,000. This number comes from a 2002 survey by writers Michael McCahill and Clive Norris, but the survey has been heavily criticised for not using a wide enough sample. Even if the survey’s methodology is solid, the number would be extremely outdated by now. London’s population has risen by almost 2 million people since 2002, so a comparable rise in cameras is likely.
How many government cameras are there?
When trying to make an educated guess as to the total number of CCTV cameras in the capital, we should start with the information we are sure of. Cameras owned and operated by government bodies are a matter of public record, and so we can use these figures with a degree of certainty. Transport for London uses a total of 15,516 cameras across the tube network, and the Metropolitan Police has a further 110.
The City of London Council is known to operate 651 cameras, and a BBC survey of 2009 found that there were 7,431 surveillance cameras in use across all the local councils in Greater London.
So far, this gives us a total of 23,708 cameras – a ridiculously low number if you’ve ever walked around central London. But these official figures only show us a small part of the picture.
The vast majority of London’s CCTV cameras are not government-controlled but are instead owned and operated by private individuals and businesses. Cameras on business premises must be registered with the ICO (Information commissioner’s office) but, in a change to previous laws, domestic CCTV cameras do not have to be registered if they only capture images within the owner’s property. This means that there are potentially hundreds of thousands of unregistered private CCTV cameras in London, making the task even harder.
So, how many home CCTV cameras are there in London?
This is the million-dollar question and, unfortunately, there’s no easy way to answer it. A good starting point is a 2015 report by the British Security Industry Association. Although this report doesn’t attempt to give the total number of cameras in London, it contains a very useful estimate of how the number of private cameras compares to the number of government cameras. The BSIA believe that private cameras could outnumber public cameras by as much as 70 to 1. It is worth noting that this survey was based on the entire country. From what we already know about London’s surveillance levels, it is likely that the capital will fall on the high end of this estimate. Based on our previous figure of 23,708 public cameras, an estimate of 70 times as many private cameras would give us a figure of 536,447. Adding these together would give us a total of 560,155 – not far off the McCahill and Norris estimate we mentioned earlier.
This still seems low considering that 18 years have passed since that survey, and London has experienced one of the biggest population and property booms in its history in the meantime. Using population growth to estimate camera growth is not a bad strategy, and the BSIA report can help us here too. The report suggests that, in the UK as a whole, there is an average of one camera for every 14 people. It also estimates that, in the busiest areas, this number rises to 1 camera for every 11 people. We can comfortably assume that London fits into the “busiest areas” category, so using the one in 11 estimate seems sensible. At last count, the population of London was 9,304,000. Dividing this by 11 gives us an estimate of 845,818 cameras in the capital.
London though isn’t all the CBD area, it is made up of many sprawling suburbs. So, CCTV.co.uk thinks we can safely downgrade the figure to 1 camera for every 13 residents – this would give us a figure of 691,000 cameras in London (area) in 2020/21.
This figure is far from certain but, based on what we know about the number of cameras in 2002 and the city’s growth since then, it seems to be a sensible estimate. If we continue to see surveillance levels increasing in line with population levels, we can expect the number of CCTV cameras in the capital to pass 1,000,000 in the next 5 years.
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