Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Eye Spy

Sutton Council has risked falling foul of the law by failing to give notification that a residential area of Worcester Park is now under CCTV surveillance.

A CCTV camera has been installed on Brinkley Road at the junction with Browning Avenue, following a request from the Metropolitan Police's Safer Neighbourhood Team.

The request follows ongoing problems with anti-social behaviour centred around the pedestrian alleyway between Browning Avenue and Heatherlea Grove (part of 'The Hamptons' development).

The Worcester Park Blog understands that the camera, installed just over a week ago, is regarded as 'temporary' and so may only be there for a few months and that footage from the camera is not being monitored live.

The installation of the camera, however, raises issues over Sutton Council's failure to comply with national guidelines on the use of CCTV surveillance.

The Information Commissioner's Code Of Practice has been written to help CCTV operators comply with the requirements of the Data Protection Act.

The guidance states clearly that operators "must let people know that they are in an area where CCTV surveillance is being carried out. The most effective way of doing this is by using prominently placed signs at the entrance to the CCTV zone and reinforcing this with further signs inside the area."

The Code Of Practice also states that:

"Clear and prominent signs are particularly important where the cameras themselves are very discreet, or in locations where people might not expect to be under surveillance.

As a general rule, signs should be more prominent and frequent where it would otherwise be less obvious to people that they are on CCTV....

...Systems in public spaces and shopping centres should have signs giving the name and contact details of the company, organisation or authority responsible. "

Despite this clear guidance, no signs warning have been put up to advise that the area is under surveillance from the CCTV camera which has been sited unobtrusively atop a tall camera pole, nor is there any signage in place to identify who is responsible for the camera.

Issues of legality aside, surely the whole point of CCTV is to act as a deterrent to those intent on committing crimes or behaving anti-socially, rather than hoping to catch the perpretators once the offences have been committed.

In which case how much of a deterrent will this camera be if those in the area are not being warned of its presence?