Paris to quadruple number of CCTV cameras

Paris will quadruple the number of closed-circuit police cameras in its streets by the end of next year, after President Nicolas Sarkozy’s promise to emulate London in an attempt to track crime and terrorism threats.

While the Paris metro and rail networks already operate around 9,500 CCTV devices, police have only 330 at their disposal to survey outside public areas. The new plan, dubbed “A Thousand Cameras for Paris”, will raise that number to more than 1,200 – with most installed in high-risk areas and outside railway and underground stations.

The figure is still small compared with London, where each citizen is caught on average several hundred times a day. Britain has about four million closed-circuit security cameras compared with France’s 340,000.

The CCTV drive follows Mr Sarkozy’s pledge last autumn to follow London’s surveillance lead. “I am very impressed by the efficiency of the British police thanks to this network of cameras,” the French president said. “In my mind, there is no contradiction between respecting individual freedoms and the installation of cameras to protect everyone’s security.”

Until now, large meeting places such as the Place de la République, where strike protests usually start, and the busy Champs-Elysées were already heavily equipped.

But police want to beef up surveillance outside the Gare du Nord – where the London to Paris Eurostar terminates – the scene of several gang battles in recent months.

It will increase on the Champ-de-Mars – the area around the Eiffel tower – where violent youths recently attacked a group of students celebrating the end of their baccalaureate exams.

More cameras will be installed in the 19th arrondissement, where a Jewish youth was killed in June in an apparent anti-Semitic attack, as well as in the 18th arrondissement – home to Montmartre and the Sacré Coeur.

Paris’s police chief will present the plan to city councillors next week. The capital’s Socialist mayor, Bertrand Delanoë, long opposed to CCTV, recognised its effectiveness in fighting crime in his campaign for re-election this year.

“The objective is not to cover every road, every corner of the city, but to put video means where common sense dictates,” one of the plan’s authors told Le Figaro, which leaked the details.

Many of the current cameras are so low-resolution that the images are unusable in a court of law, local politicians say. Interior minister Michèle Alliot-Marie will draw up a charter to go with the new generation of cameras, limiting to 30 the days recorded images can be stored. There will be strict controls on who is allowed to view them.

French police also hope a mini spy-in-the-sky drone the size of a toy glider will help them track rioters and fight crime.

By Henry Samuel in Paris
Last Updated: 3:37PM BST 16 Oct 2008

Source: The Telegraph

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