Cambridge’s CCTV System


Saturday, December 3rd, 2005. 3:36pm

The below correspondence resulted in a number of improvements to Cambridge City Council’s CCTV code of practice and brought it more into line with current practice:

Anthony Hymans, (Local City Councillor)

If you walk to the top of your road (Alpha Road), turn right and take a few steps forward I believe you will be on the city council’s CCTV as one of its redeployable cameras has, last week, been mounted on a lamp post on Stretten Avenue.

I am writing to you with a number of concerns:

1. While I support CCTV in the town centre, and other public areas, I oppose the use of CCTV in residential areas, and this camera has just appeared at the end of my, (and your) street. I feel this is an excessive invasion of my privacy.

2. I am concerned that the placing of this camera is not in line with the information on CCTV cameras that is made available via the council web site. Specifically I believe the camera is inappropriately of a “domed” variety, and that the signage accompanying it is either not present or inadequate.

3. The council’s information on CCTV which it makes available via its website is incomplete and inconsistent, which obstructs people making informed comment on CCTV. Specifically information on the police link is inconsistent, and there is no information on the security of the radio transmission of video from RCCTV cameras.

4. While the city council is fairly open about its use of CCTV, I feel comment on the city council’s CCTV operations can not be taken alone, and while private / corporate use is mentioned, I would like to see a mention of “traffic CCTV”, and any other state run cameras in the region – what they are doing, who regulates them etc.

I am now going to expand on the above concerns:

The council’s own “RCCTV Deployment Guidelines” state:

“12.1 RCCTV cameras will be mounted within the public view and with clear signage indicating their use within the area. “

The camera mounted on a lamp post (there are two brackets, with the camera apparently being moved between them) on Victoria Road is housed within an opaque dome. I believe this is contrary to the 2005 revision of the Code of Practice for the CCTV System used by Cambridge City Council which states cameras in domes will only be used in car parks. Section 1.3 states: “All cameras are sited so that they are clearly visible, except in car parks, where cameras are mounted within protective domes.”

I walk through the area covered by this camera often and have not seen any signage, therefore I believe any signage that is present is inadequate. Again the code of practice: “Publicity will be given to the system by clear signing within the monitored area. This will ensure that both the maximum deterrent value is achieved and that the public are clearly aware when they are in a monitored area.”

I would like to additionally suggest that those living close to the cameras, especially those living within the line of sight of the cameras be specifically informed of their sighting.

Neither the RCCTV deployment guidelines or the code of practice for the CCTV system make any comment on the security of the radio link between the RCCTV cameras and the control centre – I believe the council should be open about if the feed is encrypted, or if everyone in the vicinity with appropriate equipment can view it.

While Cambridge’s CCTV code of practice this week I was surprised at the apparent lack of close integration with the police, with what initially struck me as a limited capability to pass only a single video feed onto a police control room. However, on this subject the 2004-5 Annual Report states:

“A police ‘Airwave’ secure radio has been installed in the CCTV Control Room. This radio enables us to monitor and speak to police officers on the ground in Cambridge, Ely and Soham. The radio has proven to be a great success, speeding up Operator re-action times and increasing the flow of accurate and…”

This appears to me to be a great improvement in the flow of information to the police and is something I support, but it is not mentioned in the 2005 revision of the code of practice as made available on the city council’s website, in fact it is inconsistent with the two means of contact described in the code of practice – via an ISDN link to the control room, or on specific occasions when a police liaison officer is present in the control room. I feel it is important that we are given accurate information on the use of CCTV by the council, so we are able to make our informed views on it known.

PubClub and Shopwatch which the 04-5 annual report indicates are important channels for the use of CCTV information in Cambridge are also not mentioned in the code of practice – I see this as another omission. How the CCTV operators work with these organisations is something I see as as, if not more important than how they operate with the police.

I am happy for you to forward this message as required for representing the opinions contained within it.

While I would appreciate an email reply confirming that you have received this message, please do not waste any time and expense replying on paper.

Richard Taylor Cambridge

Response from the City Council’s CCTV manager 13th December 2005:

Dear Mr Taylor and Councillor Hymans

Issues Regarding Re-Deployable CCTV (RCCTV)

I would like to thank you for bringing these issues to my attention. I will do my best to address each of them in turn. I have done this by answering each of Mr Taylor’s points in bold underneath each point. I would be grateful if you would also read my summary at the end.

First of all I would like to deal with Councillor Hymans’ question about problems in the area.

We received a request from an individual for the deployment of RCCTV to observe the car park behind St Kilda’s Church. There was a report of a number of cases of vandalism against vehicles parked in the car park overnight.

The CCTV Management Board reviewed the request. It was accepted, but only when other more urgent tasks had been completed. We deployed two RCCTV cameras (which is normal practice) to cover the car park for about a week. No incidents were observed and the cameras were re-deployed to another part of Cambridge.

I would now like to deal with Mr Taylor’s points:

If you walk to the top of your road, turn right and take a few steps forward I believe you will be on the city council’s CCTV as one of its re-deployable cameras has, last week, been mounted on a lamp post on Stretten Avenue.

I am writing to you with a number of concerns: 1. While I support CCTV in the town centre, and other public areas, I oppose the use of CCTV in residential areas, and this camera has just appeared at the end of my, (and your) street. I feel this is an excessive invasion of my privacy. Cambridge City Council, like hundreds of other council CCTV systems across the country, have recognized that crime and anti-social behaviour is not confined to the city centre but is likely to occur anywhere. Therefore like many other systems, we already have cameras deployed in some residential areas, such as the Arbury and Kingsway Flats areas of the city.

The majority of incidents of crime and anti-social behaviour are short lived and tend to move from place to place. The RCCTV system has been introduced to try and deal with this and responds to people’s requests for assistance. The cameras are only used to observe public spaces. We will only take an active interest in an individual who we have seen commit an offence or whom we strongly believe is about to commit an offence.

CCTV cameras may only be used to observe dwellings and individuals outside the conditions shown below under legislation covered by the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act. These activities are rare and strictly monitored to ensure they are legal and justified. 2. I am concerned that the placing of this camera is not in line with the information on CCTV cameras that is made available via the council web site. Specifically I believe the camera is inappropriately of a “domed” variety, and that the signage accompanying it is either not present or inadequate. Please see answers to paragraphs 6 and 7 below.

3. The council’s information on CCTV which it makes available via its website is incomplete and inconsistent, which obstructs people making informed comment on CCTV. Specifically information on the police link is inconsistent, and there is no information on the security of the radio transmission of video from RCCTV cameras.

Please see answers to paragraph 9 below.

4. While the city council is fairly open about its use of CCTV, I feel comment on the city council’s CCTV operations can not be taken alone, and while private / corporate use is mentioned, I would like to see a mention of “traffic CCTV”, and any other state run cameras in the region – what they are doing, who regulates them etc. You may be aware that Cambridge City Council has no traffic or other public CCTV cameras and therefore cannot comment on other public organizations’ use of CCTV. Some advice is available on the websites shown at the back of the Code of Practice.

I am now going to expand on the above concerns:

5. The council’s own “RCCTV Deployment Guidelines” state: “12.1 RCCTV cameras will be mounted within the public view and with clear signage indicating their use within the area. “

Please see answers to paragraph 7 below. 6. The camera mounted on a lamppost (there are two brackets, with the camera apparently being moved between them) outside the Victoria Road Community Centre on Stretten Avenue is housed within an opaque dome. I believe this is contrary to the 2005 revision of the Code of Practice for the CCTV System used by Cambridge City Council which states cameras in domes will only be used in car parks. Section 1.3 states: “All cameras are sited so that they are clearly visible, except in car parks, where cameras are mounted within protective domes.”

Virtually all RCCTV style cameras are sold with a dome mount. On the next rewrite of the Code of Practice and CCTV Systems Overview, we will ensure that the use of dome cameras is clarified.

7. I walk through the area covered by this camera often and have not seen any signage, therefore I believe any signage that is present is inadequate. Again the code of practice: “Publicity will be given to the system by clear signing within the monitored area. This will ensure that both the maximum deterrent value is achieved and that the public are clearly aware when they are in a monitored area.”

First of all I can assure you that there were a total of four signs deployed with the RCCTV cameras. Second in accordance with paragraph 12.3 of the Deployment Guidelines for RCCTV they were ‘mounted in the immediate vicinity of the camera mountings’. We are also looking at ways to enable the public to contact CCTV direct. In parallel with this review, we will be looking at the signage.

8. I would like to additionally suggest that those living close to the cameras, especially those living within the line of sight of the cameras be specifically informed of their siting. We are actively looking at this. It may not be practical to visit every property but we are considering publishing the location of RCCTV cameras in the local press and sending the information out on local radio.

9. Neither the RCCTV deployment guidelines or the code of practice for the CCTV system make any comment on the security of the radio link between the RCCTV cameras and the control centre – I believe the council should be open About if the feed is encrypted, or if everyone in the vicinity with appropriate equipment can view it. We will amend the documentation to show that encryption is used. 10. While Cambridge’s CCTV code of practice this week I was surprised at the apparent lack of close integration with the police, with what initially struck me as a limited capability to pass only a single video feed onto a police control room. However, on this subject the 2004-5 Annual Report states: “A police ‘Airwave’ secure radio has been installed in the CCTV Control Room. This radio enables us to monitor and speak to police officers on the ground in Cambridge, Ely and Soham. The radio has proven to be a great success, speeding up Operator re-action times and increasing the flow of accurate and…”

11. This appears to me to be a great improvement in the flow of information to the police and is something I support, but it is not mentioned in the 2005 revision of the code of practice as made available on the city council website, in fact it is inconsistent with the two means of contact described in the code of practice – via an ISDN link to the control room, or on specific occasions when a police liaison officer is present in the control room. I feel it is important that we are given accurate information on the use of CCTV by the council, so we are able to make our informed views on it known. This is an interesting issue at the moment. I am sure you are aware that technology does not stand still, and so it is in this case. The ‘Airwave’ system is about to undergo some changes (I do not have all the details yet) and the ISDN system is about to be rendered obsolete (literally as I send you this E-mail). We are currently installing a new IP link with the police, which will give us four direct lines to the police HQ control room.

So whilst accepting your comments, I hope you will understand that I have been waiting for all the changes to be completed rather than try and amend the information piecemeal. However once complete the information will be shown in the Code of Practice. 12. PubClub and Shopwatch which the 04-5 annual report indicates are important channels for the use of CCTV information in Cambridge are also not mentioned in the code of practice – I see this as another omission. How the CCTV operators work with these organisations is something I see as, if not more important than how they operate with the police. I think the first thing to be clear about is that Pubwatch, Camlink, and Shopwatch are just a few amongst many working partnerships that we have established. We actively build up these partnerships to improve communications and raise standards amongst non-regulated organizations.

The way we work with them is heavily influence by legislation which some of them (including those mentioned above) are not subjected to. In particular, the Data Protection Act means that we will not pass on detailed information about individuals. We will normally assist the retail radio users when a crime has been committed or is strongly believed to be about to be committed. The other main use is that if someone is missing or ill, we potentially have a further two hundred or so pairs of eyes to help us look for them.

The point I am making is that we cannot list each partner individually. So I think I will have to look at a generic entry to cover them all.

Summary.

Cambridge City Council’s CCTV system is probably one of the most open in the country and there are few system that have a website anywhere near as detailed as ours. Certainly it has been held up as an example to other CCTV systems. Having said that, we are always striving to improve it.

Therefore I am very grateful to you for taking the time to read the information on the website and for your feedback, and I shall now look at using these comments to improve the information that we provide to the public.

One other point, which may be of interest to you. With the aim of being open and keeping the public informed, we do encourage people to visit our CCTV Control Room and see the operations and meet the staff for themselves. If you would like to come along and see us, maybe with a couple of your fellow neighbors (six is an ideal number) let me know and we will agree a date and I will arrange the visit.

Yours sincerely

Martin Beaumont

Richard Taylor Cambridge

One comment/update on “Cambridge’s CCTV System

  1. Niaill Whatmore

    Neighbours of mine have just installed 2 cctv cameras on there property. they clearly view what is local authority land and not their property at all. Young children play in this area as it is in front of several houses. Can somebody tell me if this is illegal.

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