LONDON – CCTV cameras fitted with loudspeakers that shout orders at criminals and people behaving badly are to be installed across England, the government announced Wednesday.
The "talking" spy cameras were being set up in 20 areas after a successful pilot testing in the northeastern city of Middlesbrough.
During the test project, operators told vandals to stop what they were doing and litterbugs were ordered to take their trash with them.
Council workers in a control center monitored pictures from 12 cameras in the town and communicated directly with people on the street.
The scheme has been criticised by opponents as "Big Brother gone mad."
But the Home Secretary insisted it had been shown to work and would benefit the communities sharing roughly $900,000 in grants to adapt existing cameras.
"The new funding for Talking CCTV is aimed at the small minority who think it is acceptable to litter our streets, vandalise our communities and damage our properties," John Reid said.
"We all pay council tax so in the end we all pay when our communities are disrespected - both in our pockets as well as in our daily lives."
Competitions are being held at schools in many of the areas for children to become the "voice" of CCTV cameras, he added.
There are an estimated 4.2 million CCTV cameras in Britain, even though it has been shown better street lighting is seven times more effective at cutting crime.
A recent study from the Government's privacy watchdog, the Information Commissioner, warned Britain was becoming a "surveillance society".
The commissioner, Richard Thomas, said excessive use of CCTV and other information-gathering was creating a climate of suspicion.