National Registration of CCTV

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CCTV users will have to register with a national CCTV body, and tell it where its cameras are. But what's in it for security people? Such were the questions at the Global MSC Security conference in Reading in March. Mark Rowe reports.

Garry Parkins was a returning speaker to the Global MSC event. At the previous one, in Newcastle in November, the national CCTV board was announced. At Reading in March, he outlined further what a CCTV body might do. First, expect consultation and public forums in each UK region. There are five sub-groups covering partnerships, police use of CCTV, training, working with local authorities and key performance indicators (KPIs). The body may take CCTV user registrations (and fees) - starting with public sector systems covering public space, but bringing in what Parkins called ‘all outward-facing CCTV’, such as shops. Other tasks for the CCTV body could include best practice advice - or at least telling you where to go for advice - and audit.

No dummies

Parkins - formerly a Home Office civil servant - seemed to rule out voluntary registration. Still though to be settled - what information would a CCTV user have to tell the new body? And what (if anything) would an installer have to tell the CCTV body about any new work it did for customers? Parkins accepted that users would not have to say what field of view a camera had; nor that a camera was a dummy; nor where covert cameras were. Nor would you have to say where you put your re-deployable cameras; only the number you had. Nor is the aim a database of CCTV images. Rather, the list would allow police to know ‘very quickly’ where cameras were. An example given was after the 7-7 suicide bomb attacks in London in 2005, when police were reduced to drawing a grid on a London map and telling officers to seek footage in each square. In the audience consultant Chris Brogan did raise a concern: would the proverbial ‘Billy Burglar’ have the same right as anyone else to make a Freedom of Information request to see where cameras were?! Or would such information be publicly available on a website?! Audience members from councils pointed out that their camera locations were for all to see on their local authority’s website, but that was for community safety purposes, to deter offences.


Another question: what enforcement powers would this CCTV body have? Parkins did say: “This is not about saying ‘thou shalt have this system’,” but there did seem the prospect of a CCTV user being criminalised if, for example, he added a camera to his system and did not notify the CCTV body. Or, the CCTV body - as part of the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) - as a law enforcer would pass on to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) any systems not registered for data protection reasons with the ICO.


Parkins did speak of several police forces starting to map their area’s CCTV systems - but doing so in different ways. He added that he did not want to be in the position as when £170m was paid out in the late 1990s on public space CCTV systems that did not talk to each other. “It would be unforgivable as we move into this new era of mapping that we have 43 [that is, the number of police forces] mapping systems that don’t talk to each other.” But that did not necessarily mean one national mapping system, he added.


Met Police DCI Mick Neville, a speaker earlier in the day, raised a point he has made to many security audiences in the last year; would a database be just one more excuse for police officers to say there was no CCTV evidence for a crime, rather than bother to visit the scene to see what cameras were in fact around? In a word, he called the talk ‘flannel’. Others in the audience afterwards raised other queries with Professional Security: given the sheer number of cameras - no-one knows how many, and during his talk Garry Parkins did not want to offer a number - how could you keep any database up to date? And would CCTV users trust an arm of government with their details, given civil servants’ record in losing data sticks and laptops?! The strategy comes under the National Policing Improvement Agency.

This article first appeared in Professional Security Magazine. Contact us if you are interested in finding out more about Professional Security Magazine or subscribing to it.