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Government

Public space CCTV: round-up

Birmingham City Council has proposed to turn off about one in five of its fixed CCTV cameras.

The council said the decommissioning of 53 cameras out of 276-camera was part of the response to central government funding cuts. The council also said it was to adhere to guidance from the Surveillance Camera Commissioner, that cameras should only be used where there is a pressing need. The largest proposed cuts were in the districts of Aston (de-commissioning ten of 36) and Tyburn (switching off 16 of 29). Most districts would be trimmed – Perry Barr going from 12 cameras to ten for example.

The 276 cameras across 27 areas cost £966,000 a year. The proposed changes would reduce that by 19 per cent to £780,500 from 2014-15 onwards. The council points top its wider need for savings as a result of funding cuts, as widely publicised, (the council currently forecasts it will lose £822m between 2010 and 2018.

The council said the 53 could be decommissioned with limited impact upon the integrity of the overall scheme. The analysis covered:

– Crime and disorder figures in the areas where cameras are
– The physical location of cameras (are they in ‘important’ locations such as near football grounds, or areas with persistent issues such as shopping areas or car parks)
– And a look at how the cameras are managed by the control room to see if any coverage overlapped or if they were monitoring restricted views among other things.

Councillor James McKay, Cabinet Member for a Green, Safe and Smart city, said: “CCTV cameras are a vital tool, helping councils and the police to fight crime. The Government has raised the bar over when and where CCTV can be used, so we have got to take that into account when reviewing our network of cameras.

“Also, taxpayers shouldn’t be paying for cameras that don’t help in the fight against crime. To do so is just throwing good money away during a time of severe funding cuts for local government. What this review does is makes sure every single pound we spend is used in the most effective way, to catch criminals and bring down crime, making the city safer for all our residents.”

Glasgow taxi drivers were allowed from earlier this year to install CCTV in their cabs after a proposal was approved by the council’s Licensing and Regulatory Committee.

All operators of black cabs and private hire cars in the city can fit their vehicles with cameras, although CCTV in cabs is not mandatory. The taxi trade had asked to be allowed cameras in cabs. The council stressed that the data protection and privacy watchdog the Information Commissioner provided advice on how images captured by cameras could be used appropriately.

The committee pointed to CCTV as a tool for crime prevention while enhancing safety for drivers and passengers alike. In line with the Data Protection Act, any taxi operator using CCTV would become data controller for images caught on camera and have the responsibility to ensure that an individual’s privacy was protected.

Councillor Chris Kelly, chair of the Licensing and Regulatory Committee, said: “The overwhelming majority of taxi journeys pass off without anything untoward ever taking place. But unfortunately incidents do happen from time to time and it’s right that safeguards are in place where ever possible. CCTV has been a feature of modern society for many years, helping with the prevention and detection of crime on a day-to-day basis. It is already common for trains and buses to have security cameras and it is sensible to extend their use to taxis as well.

“We have consulted extensively with the Information Commissioner and our policy outlines very clearly what taxi operators need to do to ensure security camera footage is handled appropriately.”

Under the terms of the policy:

– taxis and private hire care must have a clearly displayed sign that indicates CCTV is in use,

– images captured by CCTV can only be retained for 31 days,

– footage or images must be securely stored at all time and never be downloaded to portable devices such as memory sticks or CDs,

– police, licensing officers and insurance investigators can only view footage or images following a request in writing,

– individuals can view footage or image if they are a subject of a recording.

CCTV systems must not be used to record conversations between passengers and it is expected that operators will use systems which have no sound recording facility. However, sound recording will be justified where there is a specific threat to driver or passenger safety and recording is triggered by a ‘panic button’. For the Glasgow council policy visit – http://www.glasgow.gov.uk/index.aspx?articleid=11165

West Lancashire Borough Council made money available to provide more CCTV cameras in Scarisbrick, Tarleton, Downholland and Burscough and invited people to give their views on where the cameras should go.

The new cameras – two each for Scarisbrick, Tarleton and Downholland and one in Burscough – will bring the total number operated by the council in West Lancashire to 102. Eleven locations were suggested for the seven new cameras.

King’s Lynn and West Norfolk Borough Council, with NHS East Anglian Ambulance Service run bicycle paramedics from the King’s Lynn-based control room. The paramedics carry Secure-NET radio to be directed to people in need in the town centre. The council offers a service to businesses of monitoring cameras over the internet. The council website shows statistics for incidents public sector CCTV has been ‘involved in’, from affray to weapons, broken down quarterly. The largest single category by far is ‘public order-disturbrance’.
l Along the coast, as featured in January, North Norfolk District Council has given up its CCTV to save money. Sheringham, North Walsham and Fakenham town councils agreed to take on their local cameras; Cromer and Wells-on-the-Sea did not.

CCTV cameras in five towns across Anglesey were switched off due to budget cuts. Some 49 cameras covering town centres in Holyhead, Amlwch, Llangefni, Beaumaris and Menai Bridge were decommissioned by May.

The county council decided on the saving of £177,000 in February, part of efficiency savings of £7.5m in its 2014/15 budget. The council it was trying to redeploy six members of staff, employed as CCTV operators, being made redundant.

Council leader, Councillor Ieuan Williams, said: “We understand that this is a contentious decision, but our first duty as an Authority must be to protect statutory services – like social services – which we must provide by law. CCTV is not a statutory service and as such we’ve taken the very difficult decision of ending this provision. Of course, we don’t want to withdraw any services but as the severe funding cuts affecting local authorities continue to bite, it’s reached the point where we have little choice.”

Once the service was decommissioned, all cameras and associated equipment were, due to legal requirements, removed from properties in the towns where CCTV was.

The London borough of Barnet has outsourced its CCTV to OCS. The council admitted that its CCTV system ‘is out of date, expensive relative to more modern systems, and will very quickly no longer be fit for purpose’. The council reports that levels of crime vary significantly between the current CCTV sites. Hence a detailed review, with the police, to see which sites in the borough would most benefit from CCTV.

In Kent, Shepway District Council has been looking for more than a year and a half at its options. One would be the transfer of Folkestone town centre CCTV (maintained by Clearview Communications) from to Folkestone Town Council. Or, upgrade it; or shut it. The town council meanwhile has been looking into outsourcing the monitoring, if it took the responsibility, to a third party control centre (Ashford Borough Council). Shepway reports that the Folkestone cameras are coming towards ‘end of life’ and rather than microwave transmission, wifi would be better.

August is the busiest month for the CCTV control room at Bournemouth council. How can we be so sure? Because of the stats in their annual report. August is busiest, then July, and February the quietest month in terms of numbers of incidents, reflecting that it’s a seaside resort. The number of arrests viewed on camera is likewise fewest in the off-peak months of February and April, but July, October and December 2013 all saw slightly more arrests viewed on camera than August and September (161 each).

The main source of calls into the CCTV control room are from the police, well ahead of the night-time partnership (Townwatch) and the Shopwatch schemes in Bournemouth and Boscombe. The amount of incidents recorded by the system as a whole (not necessarily crimes) rose in 2013-14 to 12603.

During 2013/14 there were 1756 arrests viewed on camera 1107 reviews of footage and 859 discs seized. 1487 people were charged where our CCTV evidence was included.

The amount of arrests viewed on camera was 949 in 2010/11, 1272 in 2011/12 to 1560 in 2012/13 and 1756 in 2013/14. The amount of people charged with our CCTV evidence included was 1115 in 2010/11, 1338 in 2011/12 to 1491 in 2012/13 and 1487 in 2013/14.

Viewings of CCTV evidence are carried out by the Visual Images, Detection and Identification officer who is employed by Dorset Police.

During the last 12 months 32 requests were received for the use of our deployable cameras. The cameras were deployed in 24 different locations. A total of 942 incidents were recorded on these cameras, resulting in 269 arrests for offences including Public Disorder, Burglary, Offensive Weapon, Drugs Supply, Theft, Criminal Damage and Kerb Crawling.

Tony Gleason, CCTV manager, praised the Street Lighting Team and installer Chroma Vision who play a crucial role in these deployments as they have always responded quickly to requests for electrical supplies or the installation of lighting columns.

Bournemouth Borough Council is now registered with Highfield Awarding Body for Compliance as an approved training centre and able to deliver a variety of CCTV courses including the Level 2 Award in CCTV Operations. Courses have already been delivered to the nearby borough of Poole.

Oldham Borough Council is looking to upgrade its CCTV control room, in the Derker district of the Lancashire town. It provides a CCTV and alarm monitoring for the council as well as hosting the council’s Out of Hours and emergency planning. An upgrade is sought because the control room is taking more cameras, from housing providers and others. It monitors 77 public space cameras and 90 non-public space cameras. According to the council officers, the proposed spend will make the CCTV system ‘fit for purpose’ and support business growth so that the service has capacity to monitor further CCTV schemes. As featured in Professional Security, the control room provides a key holding service, hosts First Response mobile patrols and has access to the Police Airwaves radio. Planned are monitoring wall, more digital storage space, and a new back up server, to be installed by the installation contractor Quadrant.

In Wales, Torfaen Council has provided Pontypool RFC with a CCTV system to help deter anti-social behaviour at the club’s sports ground in Pontypool Park.

The antisocial behaviour at the site was a safety concern to Pontypool RFC staff, volunteers and public. The new system will cover the grandstand and the playing field arena which has been the subject of arson attacks and vandalism.

It will be linked to a 24-hour monitoring station where operatives can issue a public address warning or contact the police if they see any anti-social behaviour taking place. The installation of the system, and the cost of monitoring for two years, is around £13,000, with the club also making a contribution to monitoring costs.

A Torfaen council spokesperson said: “We are committed to ensuring that Pontypool RFC can remain at its grounds in Pontypool Park. The club has accepted our offer of CCTV and we hope that it will deter the acts of antisocial behaviour which we have been seeing frequently over the last few months. We also continue to work with the club to investigate the feasibility of its request to enclose the site.”

Ben Jeffreys, Corporate Director of Pontypool RFC, said: “We are delighted to have made such significant progress in our attempts to safeguard the future of Pontypool Park both for the club and general public. For the first time, the CCTV will enable us to understand the behaviour of those committing acts of anti social behaviour and will hopefully deter such instances from occurring in the future. This is a major victory particularly for the club’s volunteers, who have suffered the consequences of this anti social behaviour for far too many years. We hope they can now conduct their duties with more peace of mind knowing that we are doing all we can to eradicate the dangers they regularly encounter on a match day.

“Everybody at Pontypool RFC would like to extend its sincerest of thanks to Torfaen County Borough Council for their generous support and we look forward to continuing efforts to further safeguard the facility.”


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