Bad advice

It’s a long time since the jokers at the Swindon Community Safety Partnership have given us anything to laugh about, but now they’re back to their old habits. A bit of advice I was given many years ago — not by the Swindon Community Safety Partnership — was that one should always be cautious about using a mobile phone in a public place, particularly so in those locations, such as the entertainment zone of a town centre, where the risk of theft is high. Alas, it seems that the Swindon Community Safety Partnership may be about to encourage behaviour that’ll lead to a wave of mobile phone thefts. The partnership is going to send messages via bluetooth to clubbers’ mobile phones, giving them safety advice.

Bluetooth is a great, cost-effective way to reach lots of people with relevant bite-size community safety messages…. [I]t will be used selectively to support key awareness campaigns… and people can opt to decline messages, although we’d urge them to pick up the free advice.

I wonder if that advice will include ‘Keep you mobile phone out of sight when in an unsafe crowded area.’

From lollipops to messaging, the record of the Swindon Community Safety Partnership in dealing with Friday night revellers is consistently daft.

Picture this… eventually

Last September, I commented on plans to set-up a central control room to monitor CCTV footage from the town centre that was acknowledged as being of questionable value. Almost a year later, and Swindon’s lollipop fans, the Swindon Community Safety Partnership, are once again talking about setting up a central CCTV control room, plus at least five more cameras to add to the forty already in existence in the town centre.

For someone who’s a volunteer policeman, Mr Palusinski, head of the Safety Partnership, has an almost criminal disregard for evidence.

The new system won’t be a case of Big Brother watching you – it is to tackle issues of crime and disorder in the town while making residents and shoppers feel safe.

Err… regardless of what it’s being used for, unless the control centre is left empty and unused, it will be a case for the big-brother state watching.

These area may be parts of the town that are heavily affected by violent crime, graffiti or purse dippings and aren’t covered by sufficient surveillance.

So that’s CCTV being used to monitor the crimes that the evidence shows it’s least effective in tackling (i.e. anything other than theft from cars in car parks).

The amount of money that will be spent on updating the network will be far outweighed by the savings that will be made by having one central control room instead of having to communicate with several different agencies.

Given that the Safety Partnership’s own report acknowledged that 80% of CCTV footage is of questionable value, it seems to me that the money spent updating the network will be a waste of money.

I’ve been monitoring the ‘initiatives’ of the Swindon Community Safety Partnership for over eighteen months now. I’ve yet to see anything that suggests their naïve leadership are doing anything other than wasting Swindon taxpayers’ money.

Update, Monday, 24 August 2009: To reinforce my point, an internal police report has found that of London’s more than a million CCTV cameras, only 1 in 1000 contributes to solving a crime each year. So Swindon’s cameras are likely to be useful less than once every 20 years.