SOMEONE, SOMEWHERE is likely to be watching us on CCTV, making Londoners among the most surveilled people in the world.
Some see this as a breach of our privacy, open to abuse especially by the police.
It was, however, the Met that showed a young student from abroad and her father how street cameras can be deployed sensibly and sensitively.
Samiksha Jain, 22, of Delhi, had never previously been out of India. Due to study for a master’s degree at King’s College London, she had found a room to rent in a family house in Dalston where, for the first three weeks, her father, cinema owner Vikas, also stayed to ease her settling-in.
Come Saturday night, and with a girlfriend who happened to be in London, she set out to sample some clubs around Leicester Square. Early the next morning she’d had enough, found the N38 night bus and texted her father, patiently waiting in his digs, to meet her in about 40 minutes at a bus stop five minute from the house. She had to use his Indian number because he had not bought a UK sim.
No matter, Mr Jain stepped out into the wintry air to meet her. Unfortunately, though his host several days earlier had given him a quick tour of local transport points, he went to a stop that was not on the 38 route.
His daughter got off at the agreed point. Surprised he was not waiting for her, she texted him, again via Delhi. To no end: he had left his phone in his room.
His daughter thought “OK, he’s a little late coming out of the house” and waited half an hour. Still no Daddyji. She walked to a few bus stops in the high street — nothing.
Now it was past 4am: she was very worried. And in the shadows she could see the lurking outlines of two men.
Samiksha phoned the emergency number, 999. She was new to the city, she told the Met worker who answered, and she was worried that misfortune may have befallen her father.
The Met man immediately reviewed CCTV cameras around the area to look for a middle-aged man near a bus stop. As he looked he kept the line open, talking to Samiksha, reassuring her.
But despite 20 minutes of checking screens, Mr Jain was nowhere to be seen. Perhaps he had gone back to the house, which is where the police advised Samiksha to go. They promises to see her safely home.
CCTV tracked her progress through the dark morning and then, as she got to the door, she and her telephonic guardian heard a deep voice.
Hurrah! It was her father. He had finally given up on waiting, having spent more than hour at the one stop nobody had expected him to be.
Mr Jain told Loving Dalston: “I am so grateful to the British police for looking for us and ensuring a safe end to a long night. It would not have happened that way in Delhi.”
David Altheer 220118
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