In recent years, a number of writers have suggested that contemporary strategies of crime control have called into question some of the central features of ‘penal modernism’. The return of punitively orientated ‘ostentatious’ forms of punishment whereby state representatives try to bring penal policy more in line with public sentiment is implicated (Pratt 2000; 2002). For other writers, the apparent erosion of state power accompanied by ‘new modes of governance’ based upon ‘risk management’ rather than the normalization of individual offenders is at the centre of a shift towards a ‘late modern’ or ‘postmodern’ penality (Feeley and Simon 1994; Smandych 1999; Garland 1996). This article draws upon research conducted for the European Union-funded URBANEYE project to ask how the rapid growth in the use of CCTV in the UK fits in with contemporary debates on the emergence of a ‘post modern’ penality (Garland 1996 2001; Hallsworth 2002; Lucken 1999; O’Malley, 1999; Simon 1994). We begin with a review of the theoretical literature on visual surveillance. Next we draw upon our empirical research to provide an account of the extent and sophistication of CCTV usage in publicly accessible spaces in London. Finally, we examine the ‘practice of video surveillance’ in four different settings – an open-street CCTV system, a transport system (mainline railway station), West London Mall and South London Mall
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