Kelvin-way behind the times

Published

Credit: Glasgow Guardian / Rhiannon Doherty

Jasmine Urquhart
Deputy News Editor

The lack of CCTV on one of Glasgow’s most trafficked but dangerous streets must be addressed

In the UK, the country with the most CCTV cameras per head in the world, mass surveillance is a cultural norm. More than ever, CCTV cameras are in use in private sector organisations, most commonly at ATM machines. So the fact that Kelvin Way, one of the busiest roads in the largest city in Scotland has but a few sparsely placed lights among the trees is unacceptable. It is now widely accepted and believed that crimes can be prevented with these measures: potential criminals are likely to act differently when they are aware that they are being watched, and therefore won’t be inclined to commit crimes. Furthermore, if a crime is to be committed, around £4000 can be saved by local authorities if a guilty verdict is reached. CCTV camera instalment would both prevent crimes and lead to accurate identification of criminals.

The sheer amount of time it takes to analyse hours of footage is the main obstacle preventing Glasgow City Council from making the decision to install CCTV cameras. This means that currently the vast majority of CCTV cameras are installed in shops and businesses, which are vulnerable to losing money from crimes and therefore have a financial incentive to sift through hours of footage. However, this implies that the public’s safety (especially women’s) is not worth protecting, as it has no monetary value. In a time of widespread public distrust in the political system, this would be a harmful message to send out to people who must use this walkway every day. In the darkest months of the year, when the sun sets at 4pm, locals such as I no longer have the protection of broad daylight on the walk home. Many students use the walkway for its convenience, and its lighting makes it significantly safer than Kelvingrove Park, especially at night. But crimes such as the murder of Irish student Karen Buckley in 2015, and the currently unsolved attack of another student in 2016 prompted University of Glasgow students to launch a campaign to install further CCTV cameras to offer increased safety on the quickest route between Great Western Road and Finnieston that so many people use.

Despite gaining momentum with 1000 signatures, the campaign has proven ineffective at encouraging the council to consider investing money into surveillance on this busy road. But recent technological developments may hint that the days when police had to sit through hours of footage to identify a crime may be coming to an end. New artificial intelligence “SeeQuestor” promises to “help all major enquiry teams faced with hours of footage and ensure that suspects are brought to justice faster.” It detects faces, movements and people and automatically indexes footage into categories so as to make the jobs of local government easier, and eliminates periods of time when no activity is detected, focusing purely on the scene of the crime. This could be a huge help to already strained police forces, who rarely patrol the streets these days due to a combination of cuts to funding and the obligatory CCTV patrolling after a crime such as burglary. I’m not suggesting that cameras are installed on every street in Glasgow, but in this day and age, safety precautions are required more than ever on one of the most popular streets in the West End.