ROBOCOP is coming a step closer to policing Chester after it was revealed the city council is in talks over a system which automatically detects suspicious behaviour.
The £7,000 Bug could do away with the need for human CCTV operators.
The multi-directional camera, which could be installed near The Cross, features a ring of eight lenses which record a panoramic view of the street scene below.
The footage is scanned by a computer which can identify 50 behavioural traits and work out whether someone is acting in a suspicious manner. When a suspect is spotted, a ninth camera automatically zooms in on them and follows their movements.
The camera, which is placed at crime 'hot spots', has been tested in Luton, with trials scheduled for Chester and Exeter.
Stuart Thompson, managing director of Viseum, which developed the Bug, said: 'Traditionally, an operator moves the camera. He can only see where the camera is pointed.
'Viseum uses panoramic cameras to see everything at once. It knows what objects are out there and makes intelligent predictions about what they are about to do.'
Mr Thompson said the system was not foolproof and could mistake window shoppers for people loitering with bad intentions - but he would rather be watched by a computer than by a human.
Civil liberty campaigners say the cameras are another extension of state surveillance.
Gus Hosein, of Privacy International, said: 'It is the collection of the data in the first place. It doesn't matter who is collecting it or how it is being collected.'
DAVID HOLMES and TOM SIEBER went out to ask people what they thought about the computer-controlled camera
CHRIS NESBITT, OF BOUGHTON: 'We definitely need these cameras. I've been living here for about five years and there's a few times when cameras would have helped. I definitely support the idea, anything that helps deal with anti-social behaviour has to be a good thing. There's certainly a lot of idiots around.'
MURAT AYDOGDU, 28, OF CHESTER: 'On the one side, it's good for people's security, but the other thing is that if they are always watching you it's a bit intrusive.'
GEOFF LAMB, 52, OF CHESTER: 'It's not a bad idea. I've got the attitude if you're not doing anything wrong then you've got nothing to worry about. I think you'd have to have people monitoring it though.'
GORDON SMITH, 65, OF HOOLE: 'There is something sinister about machines taking over from human judgment. Humans can discriminate between children larking around or kids involved in a real fight. I doubt whether the computer can interpret every situation accurately.'
ASHLEY, 21, OF BLACON: 'I think if it's going to prevent people committing crimes then it's a good idea. If you have done nothing wrong then you have nothing to hide.'
HANNA CARPENTER, 21, OF HOUGH GREEN: 'It doesn't bother me. If that's what they want to do, I don't mind. If they think it will make the place safer then give it a go.'
LEWIS JONES, 38, OF BLACON: 'It could target the wrong people. It could misinterpret people's actions because it hasn't got human
emotions, has it? Someone has to programme the computer so it will categorise people. There must be a think tank which decides what they think looks like criminal behaviour but who's to say their opinion is correct?'
JOHN HAMBLETON, 73, OF CHESTER CITY CENTRE: 'I've seen something about this on TV. I think it showed someone being caught on camera for dropping litter, although I dare say it is more about vandalism. I'm not sure how cost-effective these systems are. What would be good is if they could add on a device for humanely getting rid of pigeons!'