On my way down to the Stoop this afternoon for this afternoon’s Heineken Cup clash between Harlequins and Racing Metro, I happened to be listening to a studio discussion on Radio Five Live.
The subject was that of CCTV cameras being installed in taxi cabs.
Apparently, one council that had taken action was Southampton city, which had required its licensed taxi drivers to install both CCTV and sound recorders. Subsequently, some government authority had decreed that recording people’s conversations without their permission was inappropriate, so Southampton council had discontinued the sound recorder element of their scheme.
One studio contributor was in favour of CCTV being installed in cabs, in the cause of reducing violence towards cab drivers and indeed crime generally. He mounted an argument as to why this was a good idea.
The other studio guest belonged to an organisation that was anti-CCTV on principle. He took great issue with the first speaker, and stated that CCTV and other form of surveillance were encroaching upon the freedom and rights of individuals generally, and should be resisted at all costs.
The guests went on to disagree on the benefits, or otherwise, of CCTV.
The first speaker referred to a three-month study of CCTV in taxi cabs, conducted somewhere in the UK, which had shown a reduction in instances of attacks upon cab drivers from ‘one in every seven’ rides to ‘one in over one hundred’ rides.
The anti-CCTV guest then went into overdrive. He challenged the efficacy of said study – saying there had been no control group, the period of the study was too short and basically it had been discredited.
He went on to add that those in favour of CCTV had missed completely the point and were confusing ‘active’ and ‘passive’ steps to prevent attacks on cab drivers. The best way to protect cab drivers – as other studies, including one in New York city, had shown – was to install strong barriers between the driver and the passenger, so any drunk and/or aggressive passenger could not get at the driver. Most London taxi cabs were good examples of this in action.
He finished with a loud and prolonged speech, the gist of which was that CCTV would never prevent, or be a deterrent to, attacks on cab drivers.
By this time, I was also shouting … at the radio.
In my view, this prat had also completely missed the crucial point.
Whilst installing CCTV cameras might – in passing – have some deterrent effect upon some potential attacks on cab drivers, deterrence as such wasn’t their purpose.
CCTV’s main purpose was/is (surely) to make an accurate and irrefutable ‘record’ of what went on during any ‘incident’ … so that, hopefully, any drunkard, druggy, thug or lunatic who attacks a cab driver can later be identified, arrested, charged and finally convicted of assault. Plus, if necessary, be put away so that he couldn’t attack cab drivers for whatever period the court decided he should be ‘inside’.
I was left wondering why the BBC both lets such stupid people air their views on the radio and then fails to challenge them when they talk rubbish.