Just how many CCTV cameras are there in the UK?

There are between 4 million and 5.9 million CCTV surveillance cameras in the UK, according to a new report from the British Security Industry Association (BSIA).
Entitled ‘The Picture Is Not Clear’, the report estimates the number of cameras in over 200 sectors of the economy, ranging from schools to local shops and even sewage works. Launching the report, the BSIA claimed it was the most comprehensive report into the numbers and usage of CCTV cameras in the UK to date.

Using a more complex methodology than previous studies, the BSIA produced a high, low and medium figure for each sector of the economy and then added the number together to say that the low estimate is 4 million cameras, the medium estimate is 4.9 million and the high estimate is 5.9 million. Importantly, they were counting all CCTV surveillance cameras, regardless of whether they face the public or not. So a camera in a storeroom or other area that is seldom visited by anyone counts just as much as a camera looking at the pavement outside a shop.

Previous studies have produced figures based on counting public-facing cameras in a certain region and then extrapolating to the rest of the UK. Famously, two academics, McCahill and Norris, produced a figure based on counting the number of cameras they could see on two high streets in London and then extrapolating to get a number for the whole UK. Their figure of 4.2 million was quoted for many years until another study, based on a sample of cameras by the Cheshire Constabulary, claimed that the number of public facing cameras was 1.85 million.

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