The Dorset Police force has placed advertisements in local newspapers searching for volunteers who would like to take over the task of watching some of the counties CCTV feeds to relieve overstretched police officers.
The move has met with immediate rebuke from not only civil liberty activists but also other police officials. Dorset Police would like the members of the public to keep an eye on the CCTV live feeds for four hours a day to help root out all kinds of anti-social behavior in the towns of Gillingham, Blandford and Shaftesbury.
The scheme has already been running un-noticed for some four years in the town of Wimborne. This new expanded network of 21st century curtain twitcher’s will have access to a total of 26 cameras.
They would monitor any suspicious activity and if necessary manipulate the cameras and report incidents to the police officers on the ground.
The police federation is opposed to the idea claiming it is policing on the cheap and not proper use of public resources and that such work should only be undertaken by trained professionals.
With growing concerns about invasion of privacy, that these systems may cause it seems that many groups are unhappy about the idea that “anyone” could be watching the feeds.
Dorset police counter that they have had no problems with the Wimborne monitoring and that all volunteers will have to sign confidentiality agreements before starting work which will be mostly at the “rush hours” for CCTV work 11pm to 3 am at weekends.
The volunteers will not so much be looking for “criminal” activity, they will be more focused on public order and anti-social behavior problems such as vandalism, graffiti and minor crime such as pick pocketing.
The police say that training will be provided but there is no mention what form this will take or how many hours it will last.