Catch a thief from your armchair and win cash

Tue Oct 5, 2010 9:28am EDT
 
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By Stefano Ambrogi

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Anyone who owns a laptop computer can now fight crime from the safety of their home and win cash prizes for catching thieves red-handed, under a new British monitoring scheme that went live this week.

The service works by employing an army of registered armchair snoopers who watch hours of CCTV footage from cameras in stores and high street venues across the country.

Viewers can win up to 1,000 pounds ($1,600) in cash a month from Devon-based firm Internet Eyes, which distributes the streaming footage, when offenders are caught in the act.

The scheme immediately drew criticism from civil liberties campaigners who say it is more evidence that Britain has become a "Big Brother" surveillance society with CCTV on every corner.

Participants, who pay a fee to subscribe, press an "alert" button which relays an instant text message notifying a shop keeper of suspicious behavior. The SMS is followed up with a photographic image of the potential crime.

Founder of Internet Eyes, Tony Morgan, says the scheme puts shop owners back in control of security and allows local communities to tackle crime and anti-social behavior.

"The problem with CCTV is that while cameras are practically everywhere, there's hardly anyone watching them in real time," Morgan said. "Most people know this, so CCTV is no longer the deterrent it used to be, and crime is rising."

Industry body, the Center for Retail Research, says shoplifting is at record levels, costing the UK economy almost 5 billion pounds a year.   Continued...

 
<p>People attend a workshop on the first day of the 18th World Wide Web Conference in Madrid April 20, 2009. REUTERS/Susana Vera</p>