One of the wealthiest towns on the Riviera with a crime rate close to zero has become France’s first municipality to install ‘talking’ CCTV cameras that tell off people for parking badly or dropping litter.
The home of nobility and millionaires, Mandelieu-la-Napoule is best known for mimosa trees, topless sunbathers and A-list pool parties at secluded villas. Now the community of 22,000 people is under fire from civil liberties campaigners over the introduction of cameras equipped with loudspeakers. The system allows people spotted failing to pick up dog turds or engaging in anti-social behaviour to be reprimanded or ordered to stop by control centre staff.
For years, the French have resisted the widespread use of CCTV as an unwarranted intrusion into their privacy. Objections have diminished since the Paris attacks in November and three-quarters of medium-sized towns now have CCTV. However, many see the addition of speakers as a step too far.
According to Jean-Marie Montali of Le Parisien newspaper, it is “Big Brother in Mandelieu”. He suggested that the town had more urgent things to spend its money on than “a voice from the heavens to warn you not to step out of line”.
But the deputy mayor, Sébastien Leroy, claimed that ‘talking’ CCTV would save the local council money. “A single ‘motocrotte’ vehicle to vacuum up dog faeces costs €130,00 (£102,000) a year,” he said, adding that the speaker system was a highly effective deterrent. “It is like smacking a child’s bottom. When one person is told off, there are usually several dozen others nearby who hear the message. It has a snowball effect.”