Last Friday I visited Harlow in Essex and was a shown a new CCTV system in a shopping centre. If the control room operator sees something happening he can issue a warning over a loudspeaker.

The security staff said they had initially been sceptical, but remarkably the innovation works. I watched as the very loud disembodied voice startled a group of youths who were told to move on.

There are 4.2 million CCTV cameras in Britain, about one for every 14 people, and 380 of them are in Sussex. Some people object to this proliferation, but I don't. I agree that there is no substitute for police officers on our streets, but cameras help to make neighbourhoods safer and solve crimes.

Earlier I had been shown a community centre on a council estate that had been burned down in an arson attack. The residents, especially the children, were devastated. If only there had been CCTV, the attack might have been prevented or the perpetrator caught.

At the weekend, I was queuing with a lot of people to buy a train ticket when a youth in front of us, for no apparent reason at all, mindlessly vandalised the machine. By the time we realised what had happened, he had gone. CCTV might have helped to identify him.

When mobile CCTV was introduced in Storrington last year, police said that incidents of vandalism and unruly behaviour halved. Problems in the village remain, but would anyone want permanent cameras removed?

I'm not going to tell anyone to install CCTV. I would like to see community safety budgets devolved to parish and town councils so that local people have the power to take these decisions.

But to those who claim that this all heralds a Big Brother society, I say, why should innocent people worry that someone is watching out for their safety?

Michelle Taylor