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Councils spent more than £500 million installing and operating CCTV cameras over the last four years, according to Big Brother Watch.
The £515 million spent between 2007/08 and 2010/11 could have put more than an extra 4,000 police constables on the streets, the campaigners said.
Southampton's among the cities which have the most cameras in the country.
It's fifth on the list, with just over 1,000 cameras, costing £2.4 million over four years.
Nick Pickles, the campaign group's director, said: "Britain has an out-of-control surveillance culture that is doing little to improve public safety but has made our cities the most watched in the world.
"Surveillance is an important tool in modern policing but it is not a substitute for policing.
"In too many cities across the country every corner has a camera but only a few ever see a police officer.
"Despite millions of cameras, Britain's crime rate is not significantly lower than comparable countries that do not have such a vast surveillance state.
"There is no credible evidence that more cameras will reduce crime, yet councils have poured enough money into CCTV in just four years that would have put more than four thousand extra police officers on the streets."
The figures were released following responses to requests under the Freedom of Information Act from 428 local authorities.
Emma Boon, campaign director at the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: "There is no sense in councils pouring taxpayers' money into CCTV if it is doing nothing to reduce crime.
"Local authorities across the country have to find millions in savings in the coming years and part of that means ensuring value for money in existing spending.
"Some of these cameras have never helped to solve a crime or catch a criminal, so taxpayers might wonder why we are paying for them."