The Manifesto Club has made a submission to the Anti-CCTV Strategy of www.no-cctv.org.uk. The submission, by Dolan Cummings, is below.
The Manifesto Club is opposed to the use of CCTV in public places, primarily on the grounds that it induces inhibition and undermines the spirit of public space. CCTV is often justified explicitly in terms of preventing not only crime but loosely-defined ‘antisocial behaviour’. Even if successful in its own terms, which is doubtful, this is achieved by replicating the atmosphere of narrowly-defined commercial spaces, so streets and squares begin to resemble outdoor shopping malls. The effect is to limit the public’s sense of what is permissible. In the context of widespread bans on loitering, drinking in public, or ball games and skateboarding, for example, we are encouraged to assume that our behaviour is circumscribed. Even without explicit bans, CCTV creates a sense of uncertainty about who is control, so that questionable activities are implicitly criminalised. For some, this is a good thing, and perhaps shoppers do feel more secure when the streets feel like extensions of the shops. But this is at the expense of the ‘publicness’ of public space. Genuinely public spaces are characterised by a degree of ambiguity and tolerance for unorthodox behaviour, from hawking to political protest. As long as citizens show a bare minimum of decorum, such as keeping our clothes on except in exceptional circumstances, public space is where we can all act freely, and those who object are free to retire to the safety of private spaces. CCTV stifles the spontaneity of public life, and is thus anathema to public space.