Just Days Before Khan’s Car Crackdown Goes Live, One London Area Sees 90 Per Cent of Cameras Destroyed
Almost all of the licence-plate reading cameras that will enable London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s fresh crackdown on driving in the city in one neighbourhood have already been destroyed by ‘Blade Runners’, just days before the scheme is supposed to come into force.
As many as nine in ten of Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) cameras installed in the London suburb of Sydenham and Sidcup have already been disabled according to an online information-sharing group. According to The Times, the group takes submissions from the public when they see ULEZ cameras being installed, track locations on a viewable map, and record whether they are still functional or not.
Recent reports have noted the varying ways disgruntled members of the public — described as a criminal “small minority of people” by London government spokesmen but who call themselves ‘Blade Runners‘ — have found to take out the cameras they object to. Among them are full-on theft of the cameras themselves, detaching the power and data cables that feed into them from their street poles, cutting the wires, or less active acts as simple as pushing the camera upwards to point at the sky with a stick, or placing a sticker of the lens.
One recent video taken by a member of the public of an anti-camera activist in action as patrons at a local pub smoke and drink and watch the man at work reported by London’s local freesheet newspaper the Evening Standard shows him use a garden branch ‘lopper’ to cut the camera’s cables, rendering it useless.
Per The Times‘ report, 185 cameras have been spotted in Sydenham and Sidcup — a 56 square-mile area — and 156 of them have already been taken out of action, equivalent to 90 per cent. In other areas like Bromley, 80 per cent of known cameras have been vandalised, the group claims.
If all goes to plan, Khan’s plan to crack down on London traffic will go into force next Tuesday, the 29th of August. While he defends the scheme as one to enhance the air quality in London, critics say the rules which ban older cars and trucks from the street while imposing no fines on new vehicles has a pronounced effect on the less well-off and particularly blue-collar workers who rely on a truck to carry tools and materials.
Attacking ULEZ cameras can constitute criminal damage and police are trying to catch those thought responsible. Last week they published a surveillance camera still of a man alleged to be in the act of damaging a camera. At the time of the statement, London’s police force said they had “recorded 288 crimes relating to ULEZ cameras. This includes approximately 185 reports of cables being damaged, 164 cameras being stolen and 38 reports of cameras being obscured” as of the beginning of that month.
While the Mayor’s office has tried to not talk about the vandalism, arguing to do so gives publicity to those attacking the cameras, a recent report has highlighted the cost to the budgets of London’s local governments as they race to keep up with the pace of destruction. Looking at damage to all ‘Low Traffic Neighbourhood’ infrastructure including cameras, non-visual traffic monitoring equipment, and road-blocking bollards, it was said earlier this month that councils had spent £850,000 since 2020.