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Surveillance, Technology and Policing: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives

Date of event: April 30, 2012

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Event Briefing

This conference was the second in a series of events funded by a Royal Society of Edinburgh Arts & Humanities Network Award on the theme of Crime and Policing in Scotland: Past and Present. The network is intended to provide a unique forum for researchers to engage with police and criminal justice practitioners, with the aim of sharing and enhancing mutual knowledge and research agendas and providing an opportunity for contemporary Scottish crime and policing issues to be considered from an international historical perspective.

The theme was surveillance and technology. Throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries British authorities prided themselves on not adopting methods of surveillance and control similar to those used by other European police forces, notably France, the German states and Russia. In recent decades, however, Britain has become one of the most intensely surveilled western societies as a result of investment in closed circuit television (CCTV) surveillance systems and the development of DNA databases. The aims of the workshop were to generate a dialogue between historians, contemporary researchers and police practitioners about patterns in the introduction and diffusion of surveillance technologies since the 1920s, prompt debate about the nature of technological responses to the threats posed by crime and disorder, and consider how new technologies open up innovative possibilities in terms of police-community interactions.

For the Project Website, please see:

    • Welcome and Opening Comments Professor Nick Fyfe, Director, SIPR, and Dr Anja Johansen, University of Dundee

Podcast [5 minutes, 4.9 Mb]


  • Session 1 Chair: Professor Nick Fyfe
    • Professor Paul Knepper (Sheffield University): Secret Knowledge and the Threat of International Crime in the Interwar Era
      Podcast [21 minutes, 19.6 Mb]
    • Professor Jim Fraser (Strathclyde University): Use of forensic science in the investigation of crime
      Presentation (pdf file) [4.0 Mb]
      Podcast [32 minutes, 30.6 Mb]
    • Panel discussion
      Podcast [21 minutes, 19.6 Mb]
    • Session 2 Chair: Dr Murray Frame
      • Dr Chris Williams (Open University): The Arrival of the Computer in the UK Criminal Justice System, 1955-1975
        PowerPoint Presentation [4.4 Mb]
        Podcast [33 minutes, 31.6 Mb]
      • DCC Gordon Scobbie (Tayside Police): Digital is the new normal

PowerPoint Presentation [10.2 Mb]

Podcast [37 minutes, 35.3 Mb]

      • Panel discussion

Podcast [23 minutes, 22.0 Mb]

For further details, please contact the Business and Knowledge Transfer Manager, Tim Heilbronn (

Front (l to r): Jim Fraser, Paul Knepper.
Back (l to r): Nick Fyfe, Chris Williams, Gordon Scobbie

Event Programme

Event Speaker & Guests

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