BOURNEMOUTH, Christchurch and Poole residents are being watched by more than 500 CCTV cameras and over a dozen more than they were in 2019, new figures show.

CCTV cameras have become ubiquitous in the UK's public spaces, with the country one of the most surveilled in the world.

Figures obtained through Freedom of Information requests by Ironmongery Direct show there were 575 cameras controlled by Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council in summer this year, up 3 per cent from 560 in 2019.

Councils were asked how many CCTV cameras they had in operation as of July 2022, and how many they operated in 2019.

Of the 384 local authorities across the UK, 311 were able to provide data for both years, and a further 31 provided figures for 2022 alone.

Corps Monitoring, a security firm, said the national rise in CCTV may be due to a fall in the cost of equipment in recent years, alongside the wider availability of high-speed internet.

Councillor Bobbie Dove, portfolio holder for community safety, said: “One of BCP Council’s priorities is to make sure that that everyone living, visiting or working in our three towns feels safe. We understand that crime and safety is of concern to our communities and our commitment to achieving this is reflected in our significant investment in community safety over the past year.

“As part of our Cleaner, Greener, Safer campaign, we secured £100,000 towards improving CCTV in urban areas, with an additional £60,000 for increased CCTV monitoring. There has been an investment of £300,000 to support additional BCP Council Community Safety Officers (CSAS) and fund contracted security officers who provide greater front line visible patrols and security presence in Bournemouth Town Centre, Poole Town Centre, Ashley Road, Parkstone and Boscombe Precinct.

“Our deployable CCTV cameras are used specifically to tackle issues of crime and antisocial behaviour in areas which aren’t covered by the main public space system, which has over 550 cameras across our area. We want to ensure that everyone living, working or visiting our area feels safe, however we must work within the law and have a clearly defined purpose and aim for placing deployable CCTV on our streets.’’

Big Brother Watch, a group that campaigns against public surveillance, said that the number of CCTV cameras on the UK's streets is "out of control", and raised concerns about the potential use of facial recognition to track people.

The use of facial recognition by some UK police forces has sparked controversy in recent years, with groups including Big Brother Watch saying they are worried about the potential for bias and racial profiling through the technology.

There is little available evidence on whether facial recognition is also being used by local authorities.

Silkie Carlo, director of Big Brother Watch, said the Government should commission an independent review into "the scale, capabilities, rights and ethics" of CCTV in the UK.

But Corps Monitoring says the wider availability of CCTV cameras is an asset to people and businesses looking to improve their security.

In January, the Government updated its code of practice for surveillance cameras, saying that any cameras should be only used for a "specific purpose", and operators should be as transparent as possible regarding how they are used.