Archive: Riots in England - Why are we not shouting about the value of CCTV?

13 August 2011
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Category: News
13 August 2011, Comments: 0

And how can we make sure that CCTV also doesn’t end up in the Dock?

Yes I know that I have said it more than a few times but hey my wife continually calls me stubborn so I will say it yet again – Why on earth do people in CCTV not tell the public what wonderful things they are doing with it. Why are we not blanketing the media just now with how wonderful CCTV is? Look at all the images – and a lot of them extremely good quality – which have been plastered all over the papers and our TV screens. Why have we not had headlines telling the public that we would really be struggling to identify these people if we didn’t have CCTV. Indeed – here is a question. If there was no CCTV in the areas covered then how would we track these people down….TV pictures (if TV crews were there), eye witnesses (if anyone hung about long enough), police. Hey did the police not have a hard enough job trying to keep themselves safe and avoiding missiles from the sky?

We are all disgusted at the scenes that came into our living rooms. Of the subsequent stories and pictures of such behaviour in what is supposed to be a privileged country. But what comes out of it from a CCTV point of view? Images are used for courts. 24 hour a day, 7 days a week. It is a throughput. And before we know it, the use of CCTV will have been put to bed for these purposes and in the not-too-distant future we will be then back to the norm and have more headlines on the overkill of CCTV, the surveillance society, the Big Brother “threat”, the snooping and misuse of CCTV – we will be back where we were. We will have missed the opportunity to extol the virtues of CCTV.

So yes here comes the criticism. And a BIG criticism.

But just before I do let me tell you of a local authority I visited recently before the riots which was not a million miles away from the troubles. During my conversation with the manager it was put to me that CameraWatch is perhaps a bit feared by CCTV people. They are suspicious. They are nervous. The name “Watch” apparently has some people very nervous. Now that was very interesting to me and something that we at CameraWatch had never thought of. And it is good feedback. In some cases CCTV people saw CameraWatch in the same light as Big Brother Watch – and anyone who has shared a platform with Big Brother Watch can testify that they are not the most popular with CCTV people. So the “Watch” part of CameraWatch was putting us in the same pigeon-hole as the feelings held for Big Brother Watch. Now after the conversation with the manager in question, the attitude towards CameraWatch was totally changed because they now know that CameraWatch is not a threat. That CameraWatch is here to support good practice and compliant

CCTV. That CameraWatch is all about supporting CCTV systems to be fully lawful. That CameraWatch wants ALL CCTV systems to be fully compliant – and thus reduce any suspicion harboured by the public and a lot of the media – of misuse of CCTV. All CameraWatch does is to make it as easy as possible to make your CCTV systems do what they are supposed to do – no more, no less – and remove any possible questions of legality and impropriety. Education and awareness followed by the practical points that should already be carried out by CCTV managers and operators.

So the end of the meeting resulted in the removal of any fear factor that they had over CAMERAWATCH. We are working closely with them and we are very pleased with their extremely positive attitude. Oh and once they are fully compliant they don’t need to worry about Big Brother Watch because actually Big Brother Watch is fully supportive of CCTV as a tool – but what they can’t ignore is the misuse of CCTV. It’s very easy to sort out – we get all CCTV systems in the UK to be operated and managed correctly and that leaves Big Brother Watch with no ammunition. We will be delighted with that. And actually, Big Brother Watch will also be delighted with that – they will simply move to other areas and leave CCTV alone.Sounds pretty straightforward doesn’t it? Actually it really is pretty straightforward. It won’t be done overnight but it most certainly is achievable with the support of all involved in CCTV.

Okay so the criticism? Well that lies fairly and squarely on people involved with CCTV in not promoting the huge benefits of CCTV. And I don’t mean to potential customers or sales forces. I mean let’s get in the faces of those influential with the media. And the legislators. And the moneymen. Lets get the good-news stories out there. Let’s tell people that this identification process wouldn’t have happened without CCTV. Or that prosecution could not have happened without CCTV. Or the the old lady wandering around in the town streets or the shopping centre was kept safe and well because of CCTV.

Have a think of the amount of coverage the English riots have had in the media. All types of media. Not just this country but all around the world. This was – and still is – a mega story. Especially with the Olympics in less than a year. So what are we doing about the positive message of CCTV. Well from what I’ve seen so far – I think the term is diddly-squat. Let’s get the proverbial fingers out – and get them to grip pens, pencils, keyboards, tablets etc – and let’s get that message out there on the good that CCTV does.

And now I can tell that you’re just all waiting for the sting in the tail…I can sense it. Well it will come as absolutely no surprise when I say that that the positives would be so much easier to shout about when we have removed the risk of criticism. When we have started taking seriously the legal requirements of using CCTV. When we stop saying there’s no budget. That no-one is bothering about the niceties. That we are too busy using the CCTV system to worry about the “back office stuff”. Yep – I’ve heard it all. Every day. But you know, I haven’t yet had someone I have visited turn round at the end and say that it was overkill, too high maintenance, jobs for the boys, red tape etc after I had explained it all to them. They have all seen how doing things correctly and legally is about good business. About reducing any risk. About being confident of keeping staff and public safe. That simple.

Oh and having mentioned the Olympics I had the great pleasure at the start of the month to be part of the organisation of the test event for rowing at Eton / Dorney Lake – the World Rowing Junior Championships – which will be the venue for the 2012 Olympic Regatta. And how many medal could GB pick up there? I am very, very optimistic. So yes the Olympics. I also had a meeting in London recently with someone very close to the security arrangements for different locations of the Games – and it worries me considerably about the compliance – or lack of – of the CCTV systems of which there will be more than a few.

So with the clock ticking let’s look at the CCTV systems and lets have them checked for compliance by experts in that field. How can I possibly have said what I have said in this article and then simply sit back and hope that the security for the greatest sporting event on the planet might be OK. The CCTV systems MUST be good. They MUST be fit for purpose. Above all they MUST be legal and compliant. CameraWatch looks forward to hearing from them.

So from the headline of this article, I do have to say that with all the coverage in the media and the use of CCTV – the law of averages would say that at least one smart lawyer is going to pop his head above the parapet and challenge the compliance of the CCTV system that produced the CCTV image evidence. It could be any small detail such as the time and date setting, the training of the operators, the procedures, the signs – any of a huge range of issues. And this isn’t all directed at Public Space CCTV. No. No. Public Space CCTV is a small minority of all the CCTV in this country. The big companies, the mega wealthy corporations, the businesses that we all assume know better….anyone who uses CCTV to capture images of members of the public who can be identified are involved in this.

So let us all change our attitude. Let’s stop ignoring the legal requirements. Let’s find out what is needed to be done instead of running away from it and living with the risk.

Let’s find out if there is a problem – and if there is to then fix it. You can’t fix a problem until you know what the problem is.

And as for the positive stories on CCTV – well CameraWatch is doing it’s bit – over to you now. Prove me wrong. Please.

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