UK and US Mysteries

One major difference between American and British mysteries is that in the latter the crimes are solved by studying CCTV footage. So rather than a search for a criminal, it’s a search for CCTV recordings and then for people who have time to stare at them for hours.

In American mysteries it’s rarely a factor at all.

Is that because the UK is a smaller country and much more of it is covered by cameras?


9 thoughts on “UK and US Mysteries”

  1. Well, if I can cite the Philadelphia example: half of the cameras installed in the City aren’t operational. Literally, no one knows which ones work and which don’t until the police need to find footage. The quality of footage is questionable. They show clips on TV when they need to find someone, and it’s hard to see how one could identify anyone from looking at a grainy image of the back of a hoodie.


  2. I’ve read that UK cities invested very heavily in CCTV to the extent that there has been public criticism of how much monitoring of public places go on. So I imagine there is lots of CCTV footage and the availability is something that readers are very aware of, so it works well in the story telling.


  3. I think Americans are very – and by very I mean ‘hyper’ – focused on privacy. If they thought their images were being recorded out there in public and that image would be used against them, they would call the ACLU and sue.
    We have face recognition technology that can pick out criminals from mugshots by scanning crowds. They tested it at a Super Bowl a few years ago and found..what was it..17 felons? But since that is possibly a violation of 4th Amendment rights (“searching and seizing” your face?) , they quietly shut it down. I have read that THAT is why you cannot do “face” searches on Google and Facebook and such -it’s mostly about fear of privacy lawsuits.

    I read that China last week found an notorious criminal at a 60,000 person concert using such technology. Also their cops evidently have hi-tech glasses with facial recognition software that ties into their national database…so when the stop and look at you, the computers are checking that database to see if you are flagged as a criminal. I think most Americans would see that as a horrible abuse of technology and a violation of their rights.

    I am not a lawyer! But I think that is one of the reasons. I think the UK and all their CCTV cameras in public are a great idea! It helps investigations a lot, right? A lot of Americans would probably be suspicious of being “filmed” all the time…


  4. Two years ago, I went to the UK with my colleague, who is 23 years older than me and sometimes has bladder issues. No biggie. Until we were walking down the street at 11:00 pm in Stratford-upon-Avon and she couldn’t hold her bladder. She ducked into an alley to pee, and all I could think of was, “This is going to be on CCTV, and she’s going to get arrested or fined.” But nothing happened. Maybe the British ignore those cameras until a true crime happens. Or they just shake their heads at 65 year-old women squatting in an alley.


  5. Yes we do have a lot of CCTV in the UK, mostly in town and city centres and on transport. I suppose we’ve grown accustomed to it, but I can see it could lead to paranoia. People seldom get arrested for urinating in the street, unless it’s on war memorials… you think I’m joking?


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