Agenda item

Surveillance Camera Policy


The Committee was consulted on a draft Surveillance Camera Local Authority Code of

Practice for the Council which was attached at appendix two. 


The Assistant Director (Communities) advised that each council service operating a surveillance camera system was responsible for having policies and procedures for their use, completing Data Protection Impact Assessments (DPIAs) and reviewing the use of cameras regularly, especially when changes had taken place. In those circumstances, the Surveillance Camera Commissioner advised that a Local Authority’s Code of Practice (LA Code) was also put in place to demonstrate that it was meeting its legal obligations and adherence to the Surveillance Camera Commissioner’s Code of Practice and its 12 principles.


The Assistant Director (Communities) highlighted further key points from the report regarding the responsibilities of officers and the guidance from the commissioner; Members were advised that the Policy had been taken through the Information Governance Group and is likely to be reported to Cabinet for agreement sometime in the future.


The Assistant Director (Communities) concluded that, once the Local Authority Code of Practice is in place, third-party accreditation would also be sought through the Surveillance Camera Commissioner.


Members had their questions answered by the Assistant Director (Communities):


  • The wording of 5.3.3 would be amended to drop the mention of operational staff being fully developed. The wording was intended to ensure the Strategic Responsible Officers were up to date with requirements and were fully trained in the processes for the camera systems. An assessment pack was being created for each scheme operated by the council.  These would include a record of training and help staff understanding of the processes and their responsibilities
  • The Assistant Director (Communities) noted Member concern over the wording around 4.9.1 of ‘deterring and detecting crime’. It was suggested by a Member that the wording be amended to advise that the purpose of the CCTV system in the first instance was to promote community safety and public assurance and then promote the camera’s effects in detecting and deterring crime/anti-social behaviour. The addition of the wording would make the report a more public facing document. The Assistant Director (Communities) agreed that it was important to differentiate between the different purposes of the scheme; some were investigatory, and others were to protect the Community


Members welcomed the cameras for their crime prevention ability, but concerns were raised that having too many cameras would infringe on the public’s privacy and would lead to Gravesham becoming a ‘big brother’ Borough. Members sought assurance that a careful balance would be struck so that there would enough cameras for public safety, but not too many that would infringe on the public’s right to privacy.


In response to the concerns raised, the Assistant Director (Communities) explained that it was important that the Council communicated to the public the approach that was being taken with installation of cameras and the reasons for a camera being installed. The Council regularly received freedom of information (FOI) requests asking for further information on how many cameras were installed in Gravesham and the reasons for having then; for example, there are just over 50 cameras public space cameras operational in the Borough which wasn’t a huge number. All of the cameras were regularly reviewed in relation to incidents and could be removed if there was no longer a valid need for them to be in their current position. It would be beneficial to conduct a piece of work around communicating messages regarding CCTV cameras to the public.


The Assistant Director (Communities) explained that the Council had no powers over CCTV cameras installed on private property, but the Council were able to place mobile cameras in certain areas and they could be used to test out the usefulness of the position of the camera and if a permanent camera was needed. The Assistant Director (Communities) agreed to circulate the costs of installing and maintaining a CCTV camera to Members outside of the Committee.


The decision to install a CCTV camera was made by officers at the Council and a number of factors were considered during the process; when a request was received crime incidents were reviewed in the area requested to assess whether a camera could be justified. A comprehensive review of the public space CCTV scheme was also carried out within the last two years.  Consideration needs to be given to how the public are engaged with future reviews.


In response to a Member’s question, the Assistant Director (Communities) advised that Members are appointed as a Lay Panel of Visitors to visit the control room where the Borough’s public space CCTV cameras are monitored.  Arrangements could be made for other Members to view the operation. The control room had certain protocols in place around monitoring, which exclude following random members of the public; such monitoring only takes place when individuals of interest have been identified, for example when given intelligence from the Police.


Following a short debate by Members on privacy vs safety with regards to CCTV cameras, Cllr Sangha explained an example to the Committee to alleviate certain concerns over too many cameras. Cllr Sangha had requested a CCTV camera be placed in Pelham ward to deter low level drug dealers and he advised that it was a very comprehensive process which required local residents to be engaged with before a camera could even be considered. In the end a mobile camera was placed and after 6 months it was evaluated and removed as it had severed its purpose by deterring low level drug incidents completely.


Members noted the draft Code of Practice.


Supporting documents: