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Voluntary adopters and the national surveillance camera strategy

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Hi, I’m Philip Jones and I have been supporting Tony Porter, the Surveillance Camera Commissioner, in delivering compliance with the surveillance camera code of practice for well over a year. I lead the voluntary adopters strand of the national surveillance camera strategy for England and Wales.

Whilst this is a purely altruistic part-time voluntarily job I have a day job as the Westfield Europe Security Manager at Westfield London (White City). My background comprises an eclectic mix of police and military (RAF) service, local Government (Wandsworth Council) and corporate security for a communications company and major national and international banks. All in all I was perfectly suited to the role! Little did I realise the complexity of the task ahead.

Having been invited to take up this role, someone (in fact, more than one person) had to explain what a ‘Voluntary Adopter’ is!  Also, what specifically does ‘surveillance’ mean? At long last, I think I know!! Surveillance first! It is important to note that surveillance includes the traditional CCTV camera, usually attached to a wall or pole, but also includes automatic number plate recognition, body worn video and, cameras attached to vehicles or drones.  Any form of surveillance camera.

A Voluntary Adopter agrees to adopt the code of practice voluntarily (blindly obvious really) – there is no legal requirement for Voluntary Adopters to adopt the code (and achieve compliance). However, there are numerous reasons why adopting the code is a good idea – one of which is the benefit of ‘selling’ compliance as a social responsibility. This has hit a vein with a number of shopping centre owners and retailers (as well as national bodies such as Revo (which was the British Council of Shopping Centres)). Adoption of the code is, in a number of cases, seen as the right thing to do and is, currently, a unique selling point for some.

Why adopt the code?

The really interesting aspect of this work is the initial “what’s in it for me” response followed by the “can you help us self-assess and move to certification.” Board Members, or those holding the purse strings, want to know what commercial benefit might be derived from self-assessment or certification and, evidencing the commercial benefits can, on occasions, be a little tricky. It is important to consider the question from a different perspective. When responding to, for example, enquiries from the public or legal representatives, evidencing compliance may be extremely valuable particularly in cases involving litigation. But, as mentioned elsewhere, various right-minded business view self-assessment as the right thing to do if they are monitoring shoppers, contractors or their own staff. One shopping centre management company has not insisted on compliance by all retailers (in retail units and kiosks) in their shopping centres – which is a major step forward.

Westfield Shopping Centres, are adopting the code, self-assessing and moving to certification is 2017. Intu support the adoption of the code and are, it is hoped, moving to early self-assessment at Intu Centres and, similarly, Hammerson are moving towards adoption. M&S have (amazingly) achieved certification and are rightly proud of this achievement. Other retailers, shopping centres, retail parks and town centres have shown interest in following suit and in the coming months I will be providing support to these businesses and organisations.

Where next?

The scope of the voluntary adopter sector is huge and, I decided to address the retail and retailing environment first so as to impact a very large number of people – a person that visits a shopping centre, retail park, town centre or specific retailer! I have mentioned to Tony that I have sights firmly set on the banking sector via the British Banking Association but I want to ensure that I have achieved momentum in retail sector before taking on ‘Banking’. I also have links (via the Centre for the Protection of the National Infrastructure) with leaders in the entertainment industry and this is, perhaps, the next area to address. All in all, this would appear to be a life-long task of persuading those that have no legal or regulatory requirement to achieve compliance, to jump on board.

Support for this initiative at CEO and Board level is vital is we are to ensure that ‘surveillance’ is undertaken consistently and lawfully. Thankfully, many have seen the light and others are considering the pros and cons whilst doing a business in a very challenging environment. I am excited (but slightly apprehensive) about the months ahead as others come on board but the benefits to business are clear to me and numerous others.

So, lots to do so make sure you sign up for email alerts for Tony’s blog and also follow him on Twitter to hear all the latest news about the strategy.

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