SMT Online Editor’s View: Reaching for CCTV compliance

The second CameraWatch Forum of 2009 was held on Tuesday in Edinburgh. On the day, having delivered his thoughts to the audience about where we’re going wrong with CCTV, Brian Sims noted several key points worthy of serious debate.

In all honesty, I must say that our decision to take Security Management Today into cyberspace late last year is paying massive dividends.

Almost 12 months on, readership figures for my SMT Online Editor’s View alone have already eclipsed those of the old print journal, feedback is both extensive and immediate and, most enjoyably of all, I’m now no longer tied to the desk and can spend far more time on that most important of tasks.

The task in question is being ‘in the industry’, attending all of the key conferences, seminars, evening lectures… You know the scene.

The Times of security publishing

During my tenure, the print version of Security Management Today came to be recognised as The Times/Daily Telegraph of this industry’s publishing mix. The impartial voice of authority and reason, its pages populated by the most important industry figureheads and jam-packed with comment (46 pages of Letters To The Editor across the 12 editions in 2006 alone).

That remains the case with SMT Online, of course, but now we’re spreading the content net much further and far wider.

Hence my socio-political commentaries, which seem to be going down a storm with all of you, in addition to the myriad security groups with which I’m now involved on LinkedIn and via Twitter, etc.

Anyway, as I said I’m now no longer having to miss events because of print deadlines. Not only that, I’m joining the industry’s ‘Speakers’ Corner’ in a big way. In the last few weeks, I’ve been a guest orator at the Security Industry Authoritys Small Business Network Forum, the Skills for Security National Conference (which took place at The RAF Museum in Hendon on 20 October) and the UK Leadership and Management Conference run by Securitas Security Services.

Oh yes. I managed to fit in the Keynote Speech at our own Security Excellence Awards last Thursday just for good measure!

The CameraWatch Forum at RBS

On Tuesday of this week, I put forward my views on where we’re going wrong with CCTV as part of CameraWatch’s latest Forum. This event was held at the RBS Bank’s plush global hq, located at Gogarburn on the outskirts of Edinburgh. So many interesting points emerged on the day I thought I’d share them with you. As always, your feedback on what’s to follow would be most welcome.

For those of you that either don’t know or know little of CameraWatch, let me explain what this fine organisation is all about.

It’s a completely independent, not-for-profit outfit launched a couple of years ago by Gordon Ferrie (a former senior policeman and head of group security at none other than RBS). Together with Paul Mackie (CameraWatch co-founder and its director of compliance), Ferrie has dedicated himself to promoting the value of CCTV system compliance with the Data Protection Act.

Ferrie and Mackie – along with chairman Pat Curran and supportive organisations including Norbain, JVC and Security Management Today – also wish to see compliance with the Information Commissioner’s Office’s own Code of Practice relating to the use of surveillance systems and personal data.

In addition to campaigning tirelessly for greater regulation of CCTV, CameraWatch also carries out thorough compliance audits on operational systems, while at the same time promoting awareness and education in relation to the legal requirements of data protection right across the private and public sector arenas. It’s a commendable remit to say the very least.

The CameraWatch Forum runs twice every year (I also spoke at the last event, held at Canary Wharf in March) and is described by Gordon Ferrie as “the engine room”. It’s where the movers and shakers in the surveillance world gather. Indeed, much of the comment generated from the Forum has been included in the all-new Lifecycle Guide to CCTV Compliance, which will be released for public consumption early next year.

Education on both sides of the fence

Ferrie is nothing if not passionate about what he does. He has sat on both sides of the fence, having been a user and buyer of CCTV in the private sector and a policeman having to request images for prosecution purposes. In short, he knows the surveillance score and, just now, he’s not at all happy with the negative comment CCTV is receiving (by way of Mick Neville and others).

Earlier this month, for example, Mike Press – professor of design policy at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design in Dundee – was quoted in The Times and then subsequently interviewed on BBC Radio Scotland (as pointed out by Ferrie in his opening gambit).

For those of you not au fait with Professor Press’ work, this highly respected academic has spent the past decade studying how design can contribute to crime reduction. Anyway, he duly told the UK’s leading broadsheet that the expensive (and expansive) policies adopted towards CCTV are, in his opinion, politically motivated and ineffectual.

Professor Press also warned, and in no uncertain terms, that surveillance can have the opposite effect of that intended, by luring UK plc’s citizens into a false sense of security and encouraging them to be careless with property and personal safety.

“As a society, we should question why we have CCTV,” suggested Professor Press. “Our civil liberties have been crushed, trampled upon and compressed, and this is part of that process. We’ve yet to see CCTV have any positive impact. I think we should have a moratorium on it.”

On top of that you need to add comments from individuals like Richard Thomas CBE, the former Information Commissioner, who once famously said – in both The Times and The Guardian, in fact – that “we could be sleepwalking into a Surveillance Society” (what with DNA databases, ID cards, the proliferation of CCTV and the like).

CCTV? It’s not a magic bullet

Professor Press quite correctly opines that many commentators portray CCTV as some kind of ‘magic bullet’ surely destined to rid society of all known ills. It isn’t, and it will not. Indeed, I said as much at the CameraWatch Forum.

Within his blog, it’s interesting to discover Professor Press openly venturing that he’s no expert on CCTV. He merely “tracks all of the research” in this area as part of his own continuing education amid the world of design and crime prevention.

He’s also mildly critical of the attempts made by national media journalists to discuss and debate the subject of surveillance.

On that theme, Professor Press points to “the over-simplification of complex issues” and asserts that “strong vested interests” – primarily the CCTV industry – are driving CCTV forward so much that it’s now stripping resources from “other, more effective crime strategies”.

Professor Press states: “Our civil liberties have taken a battering under this Government, and CCTV has been extended in its scope without any rational assessment of its efficacy or implications. That is not to say that it’s without any value in terms of crime prevention or detection. However, its future development and application should be informed by research and framed by politics rooted in social justice. Those are not the politics of David Cameron.”

Social justice? What social justice?

Well I for one do not see much in the way of social justice emanating from Gordon Brown’s sorry excuse for a Cabinet.

The bankers who’ve led us into the current financial meltdown – in turn costing the jobs and homes of thousands of decent, hardworking people – are already back on their obscene bonus gravy train.

At the same time, MPs who’ve been involved with ‘flipping‘ homes, shunned capital gains tax and claimed for absurd ‘expenses’ are now looking at safe retirement havens in the House of Lords when most right-minded members of the public feel they should instead be in front of a Judge. Where’s the social justice in that, Professor Press?

I’ve been a security journalist (and the Editor of Security Management Today) for the last decade. By now, I’d like to think I know what I’m talking about, whether the subject matter be CCTV, security officer licensing, protection regimes for our Critical National Infrastructure or whatever.

I’ve won three editorial awards from the industry during that time, so perhaps I have grasped the nettle to some decent extent.

Surveillance proves its worth

If we have “yet to see it [CCTV] have any positive impact”, how come surveillance was a key component in capturing the vicious young killers of poor James Bulger? Were the crystal clear images of the 7/7 bombers at Luton Station not proof of CCTV’s worth in the fight against terrorism?

What about the part surveillance played in the Jean Charles de Menezes episode, and the IPCC’s inquest over what happened during the G20 Summit protests in The City? I could go on.

In the full article, written by Lindsay McIntosh, Professor Press talks of CCTV companies promoting the crime-reducing benefits of their solutions in what he believes to be a “lazy approach to crime prevention”.

Not surprisingly, Gordon Ferrie is incandescent with rage over comments like this one. Yes, it emanates from a self-confessed non-expert, but if members of the public hear and/or read the same mantra time and again it’s not going to be long before they’ll start to believe it.

30 years ago, CCTV was held aloft as THE forensic science. We have to reclaim that situation and, importantly, maintain public confidence in surveillance technology and what it can achieve when manufactured, specified, installed, managed and used in the right way.

We already have to suffer the outcomes of a lawless society complete with an ineffectual judiciary and a police service continually constrained by central government. A lawless society in which gangs of youths rampage about the place knowing full well they’ll be let off with a few stern words.

Without CCTV, though, the situation would be ten times worse. We’d have Social Armageddon on our hands.

Major weapon for the police service

CCTV happens to be the major weapon in the police services’ armoury, as pointed out at the CameraWatch Forum by Jill Imery, chief superintendent and head of safer communities with the Lothian and Borders Police.

Imery’s views on CCTV and policing in this day and age were so refreshing to hear. “Complaints of assault made against officers by those they’ve captured and detained in custody suites have plummeted thanks to the installation of CCTV in these areas.” Excellent news, it must be said.

At least that will go some way towards combating the morally bankrupt claims culture now firmly in our midst.

Does it (ie CCTV) make a significant impact on violent crime and/or alcohol-related offending? Well, there’s lots of emotion involved in these types of crimes. My own father has always said: “When the drink’s in, the wit’s out”. People do tend to behave in an odd, not to say inhuman manner when they’re ‘tanked up’. No amount of cameras in pubs and clubs will change that.

Then again, that’s not CCTV’s remit. Societal morals and manners, ways of behaving and decency towards our fellow man should be taught in the home by responsible parents during childrens’ formative years. As Imery so superbly pointed out, we seem to have lost our moral compass in Brown’s Britain. “We’re seeing the children of those we arrested 20 years ago now being apprehended for the same offences.” No surprise there whatsoever.

Every miscreant dealt with by Imery and her colleagues is further evidence that society has failed in its duty. We need to address the malaise in which we now reside, re-examine the role of social workers and introduce compulsory parenting classes. We must take a long, hard look at an education system in which five A grades at A Level appears to be the norm, while a place at university renders nothing like the gravitas it once did.

Going to university used to be for the elite. Now, anyone can get in.

Imery was also spot on in opining that technology – CCTV included – is fundamentally changing and shaping the way in which we live, work and socialise. I for one don’t believe we can ever have too many CCTV cameras. If you have nothing to hide, and the Government of the day isn’t crooked in terms of how it processes data, I don’t see how the proliferation of surveillance cameras can be in any way harmful. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Budgetary constraints will mean the mixed economy of policing we see in the UK today is going to be the blueprint for the future. A fundamental element of this mixed economy is CCTV. That’s a fact no-one can deny, whether they’re an expert in the subject of surveillance or otherwise.

Mapping of CCTV systems

Brian Connel – chief inspector at Strathclyde Police, and also responsible for a community safety remit – examined how the mapping of CCTV systems will greatly assist investigations. All the while, Connel stressed that the “quality, compliance and value” of CCTV are vital. Dead right they are.

Connel believes that the police service is learning from CCTV and how to use it, in the main due to the passage of surveillance images through the judicial process. He was correct in saying that no end user should put in place rigid CCTV frameworks in response to a single issue that he or she hopes to solve.

Interestingly, just before we broke for coffee Gordon Ferrie was back at the lectern to tell us that Geoff Teale – programme manager at the National Policing Improvement Agency – has stated that 22 of the 44 recommendations for enhancement outlined by the National CCTV Strategy are now being put in place across England and Scotland.

What about Scotland, where the aforementioned scribe Lindsay McIntosh tells us that there are now 2,235 public space CCTV cameras compared with 1,269 in 2003? Perhaps we need some joined-up thinking here, folks.

Next month, I’m attending a Stakeholder engagement event in London wherein there’ll be an update – for CCTV and corporate security managers in both public and private sectors – on progress made to date with the National CCTV Strategy programme. Those Stakeholders will be asked questions like:

For what purpose does the business primarily use CCTV? Did/do the local police have any involvement with your CCTV operation? For how long do you hold recorded CCTV images? How do you measure the performance of your CCTV operation? Do you regard your CCTV as monitoring public space? Do you ‘share’ your real-time CCTV images with others?

Assuming that the meeting is not going to be conducted under a Chatham House Rules scenario I will, of course, let you know what’s said on the day.

The end user’s perspective

Views (if you’ll pardon the blatant pun) on CCTV in a large corporate organisation were expressed with great clarity by Alan Brown OBE QPM, the group security director at Tesco (but only after he’d waxed lyrical about ClubCards – fortunately I had mine with me!)

For an end user the size of Tesco, there are pivotal questions that demand to be asked (and answered) in relation to surveillance. How much does it cost? What benefits does it realise?

Brown told us that his organisation spends upwards of £13 million every year on CCTV. “Lots of people are convinced they know the true worth of CCTV,” suggested Brown. “Our Property Department certainly believes it does.”

The philosophy at Tesco seems to be one of achieving improved security by way of sound thought processes. “Too much of today’s decision-making on security is mired in 1990s thinking.” I wouldn’t disagree with that statement.

As my esteemed colleague and great friend Bobby Logue once suggested, there has been an overriding need to instruct the dinosaurs on how they might dance to a new tune.

Brown showed us a video interview with a reformed shoplifter. The man in question used to be a market trader with one of the major banks. Having developed a cocaine habit – not uncommon these days for those with heaps of expendable cash and no moral backbone – the bloke concerned lost his job and then chose to rob Tesco for a living. Marvellous.

On film, the chap said that CCTV neither deterred nor identified him, and that he was managing to steal £1,000 worth of goods every day from Tesco outlets. “CCTV does have a significant role to play in catching people like this,” countered Brown, “but with certain caveats attached.”

High quality CCTV playing its part

Brown and his team members identify lots of shoplifters. The only difficulty lies in interesting the local police in terms of what they’re doing in the area of low level crime prevention.

“When an offence escalates and becomes more serious, there’s most certainly an assumption about high quality CCTV playing its part, but of course that’s all post-incident,” sighed Brown. “As retailers, we need to be far more proactive in looking at things like crime trends and risks so that we know we’re locating cameras where they should be located.”

Shrinkage at Tesco last year stood at £182.8 million. Yes. You read it right. £182.8 million, and around 80% of that is due to theft from customers and staff combined.

The spend on security? A total of £103.7 million (including £71 million on guarding, the already-quoted £13 million on CCTV, £3.5 million on alarms, £1 million on ATM housings and a cool £500,000 shelled out for safes).

Brown is combating issues like scan avoidance at checkouts (either due to collusion or operator error) by engaging with new Electronic Point of Sale technology such as StopLift.

“The future of security in retail is all about integrated solutions,” he stressed, “and real-time analytical assessment. Facial recognition solutions in tandem with RFID focused on the valuable product ranges will be the way forward.”

What’s happening at the ICO?

Ken Macdonald from the Information Commissioner’s Office then examined how things are changing at the organisation. There’s a new Information Commissioner – Christopher Graham – now in place, about whom “all the vibes are positive”.

Thankfully, something’s being done (under Section 55 of the Data Protection Act) about private investigators attempting to ‘blag’ information. “£5,000 is not a big enough penalty for this offence,” said Macdonald.

The Ministry of Justice launched a consultation on 15 October, and there’s now talk of a 12-month sentence on summary conviction for this offence, or 24 months’ imprisonment upon indictment. About time, too.

Macdonald is adamant the ICO is no “toothless bulldog”. His organisation’s goal? “To strengthen public confidence by making it much easier to handle sensitive information.” Let’s see what Mr Graham can do, shall we?

Data Protection Compliance Assessment Scheme

In signing off, it would be wholly remiss of me not to make mention of Paul Mackie’s announcement concerning the launch of CameraWatch’s CCTV Data Protection Compliance Assessment Scheme (scheduled for 2010 alongside a new partnership training programme and the aforementioned Lifecycle Guide).

The aims of the scheme are simple: to raise the standards of Data Protection Act compliance in relation to CCTV, ensure buy-in for this from the public at large, increase awareness about the legal requirements to be observed when deploying CCTV, aid the detection and prevention of crime and preserve Human Rights.

In supporting and helping end user organisations to become fully Data Protection Act compliant, CameraWatch will award Platinum, Gold and Silver status to schemes once an assessment has concluded.

Platinum means that an installation is 100% compliant, Gold 85% and Silver 70%. All those who do not make Platinum status at the first time of asking will be assisted every step of the way until they pass muster.

The siting of cameras, access to images, CCTV signage, the security of captured data and the training of operators will all be taken into account during the assessments. Those assessments (not audits, but assessments) are totally independent and carried out by qualified personnel affiliated to CameraWatch.

“We kick-off in January,” explained Mackie in confident, purposeful voice.

Looks like the New Year could begin with a very rude awakening for those bereft of a thorough grounding in – and a distinct lack of awareness of – CCTV and how it relates to the DPA.

Until next time…


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