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LONDON - Britain is taking its surveillance to a new level, strapping video cameras to the helmets of its famed bobbies — a move the government says will cut down on paperwork and help prosecute criminals.
By providing dramatic footage of victims, suspects and witnesses, judges and jurors will be able to "see and hear the incident through the eyes and ears of the officer at the scene," Minister of State for Security Tony McNulty said.
The Home Office said it was allocating $6 million to fund the devices for Britain's 42 police forces — enough to buy more than 2,000 cameras.
Police already use handheld cameras to monitor crowded events and the new head-mounted devices, worn around the ear or clipped on to a helmet, have been used on a trial basis by police in Plymouth, in southwestern England, since 2005. Similar cameras are used by security guards at sports venues to hunt for soccer hooligans.
Britain is not the first country to use such cameras, versions of which have been tested in Denmark. But the national rollout will tighten Britain's web of video surveillance, already the most extensive in the world. The country is watched over by a network of some 4 million closed-circuit cameras, and privacy advocates complain the average Briton is recorded as many as 300 times a day.
In a report on the Plymouth pilot project published by the Home Office on Thursday, policemen praised the head-held cameras for deterring bad behavior and providing excellent evidence against crooks.