Councils spent more than £500 million installing and operating CCTV cameras over the last four years, campaigners say.
Birmingham City and Westminster City councils each spent more than £10 million on surveillance cameras and five local authorities now have more than 1,000 each, Big Brother Watch said.
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.
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.
Across England and Wales, at least £515 million has been spent by councils over four years, with at least 51,655 cameras now being operated.