Really sad to see this piece by the BBC on how 62 cameras in Birmingham will be removed at the end of November. It’s because they no longer meet legal requirements.
There was a flurry of activity on LinkedIn about the article too. Some CCTV experts blamed equipment that was out of date, substandard or obsolete. It had to be removed but lack of funds meant that these could not be replaced or upgraded.
CCTV and Privacy
Others mentioned the SCC Code of Practice, which contains an element on compliance and the DPA 2018 – the dreaded GDPR.
The 12 point code of conduct says use of a surveillance camera system must always be for a specified purpose which is in pursuit of a legitimate aim and necessary to meet an identified pressing need.
The use of a surveillance camera system must take into account its effect on individuals and their privacy, with regular reviews to ensure its use remains justified.
Still more blamed the problem of untrained people viewing the footage without adhering to standard operating procedures.
And then one man said something that chilled me to the bone:
No cameras, no witness
Instantly, little Mille Dowler came into my head. Some years ago, I watched a television programme about the investigation into her disappearance in 2002. My own daughter was of a similar age. The tragedy hit very close to home.
The documentary showed how the Police had tried to use CCTV to identify Millie’s abductor. But the lack of quality footage meant that whoever it was remained at large. And no one knew what had happened. She had just failed to come home from school. Every parent’s worst nightmare. The cameras could track her to the main road outside her local station. And then she disappeared.
Fast forward to January 2019. ITV ran their series ‘Manhunt’. It showed how the Police had painstakingly pieced together the movements of the main suspect in the murders of two other young women. Using CCTV camera footage. And they were able to identify that the same man had been in the area where Millie was last seen.
At the same time, the court case began for the attacker of tennis player, Petra Kvitova. Again, there were no witnesses. And the lack of CCTV cameras meant that it took a lot longer for him to be captured.
Birmingham City Council said that there are still 393 cameras across the city and the money saved would go into measures to protect the public. This included eight new mobile CCTV units.
But community campaigners highlighted the rise in violent crime in the West Midlands. They want the council to reinvest in new cameras to fight against crime and keep the streets safe.
The chances of a portable camera being in exactly the right place at the right time to identify a murderer are slim.
They tend to be moved into position once they are aware of a threat – after something awful has happened.
The cameras that caught Millie’s murderer were static.
Watchful eyes that allowed the Police to identify a serial killer.
Remember, the piece of equipment that burglars and criminals fear most are CCTV cameras. They are the witnesses to their crimes.