Hey there, it’s Alastair Thomas here. My first guest blog as project manager for development of a new National Surveillance Camera Strategy was posted back in July. So as the evenings draw in, and autumn sees the leaves beginning to fall from the trees, it feels like time to bring you an update on progress.
The Surveillance Camera Commissioner’s Strategy Group has now reviewed the draft strategy document, and taken careful account of views and suggestions made by the Advisory Council when it met on 19 September. As I write, the finishing touches are being put to what I believe to be a much stronger strategy, which we intend to put out to wider consultation before the end of October.
I see one of the key developments in the strategy as the greater clarity in its vision. This is now expressed in terms where we can all be assured that surveillance cameras in public places are there to keep the public safe, and to protect and support us. For me, this is precisely what the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 intended in its requirements for a surveillance camera code of practice.
The Strategy Group is not just working on the expression of the strategy. It is also working hard to prepare delivery plans for the tactical implementation of its vision and mission. I hope you read Simon Adcock’s recent blog where he talked about his work leading the industry strand. Simon is just one of the ten strand leads who are developing some really innovative and ambitious ideas for action which should drive greater awareness and adoption of the 12 guiding principles in the code of practice, and assessment of compliance against them.
The strategy can only succeed by building on what is already in place. As a result of many partners working together, there has been some real progress in helping surveillance camera system operators understand and meet good and best practice and their legal obligations. So far, over 85% of local authorities in England and Wales have self-assessed how they comply with the code of practice. Other trailblazing organisations have now gone further and secured third party certification to show their compliance.
All of this action should help to reassure the public that cameras are there to keep them safe whilst respecting their right to privacy. The strategy will see the learning from their experience used to reach out to an ever wider group of organisations using public space surveillance and make it easier for them to understand how to operate camera systems responsibly, effectively and transparently.
So what happens next? We expect to start a wider consultation exercise before the end of October. With a web-based survey tool and a series of events in England and Wales. Tony Porter genuinely wants to hear your views on the ambition, direction and detail of the strategy. Details of how you can get involved and contribute to shaping the strategy will be posted in the near future.
Subject to careful consideration of your views, we aim to launch the strategy in the New Year. Work on the detailed delivery plans will continue for some months to come. Our aim is to publish these before the go live date of April 2017.
There is lots to do, and a great team which is full of energy, ideas and commitment to make it happen. Who said that you can’t put the words strategy and exciting in the same sentence?