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The national surveillance camera strategy and policing

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Hi, I’m Assistant Chief Constable Tim Jacques from Lancashire Constabulary and the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) lead for CCTV, recently replacing Assistant Chief Constable Mark Bates who has retired. I’m taking over Tony’s blog this week as I’m also leading the policing strand of the National Surveillance Camera Strategy for England and Wales. This means I represent the interests of all the NPCC leads for surveillance cameras namely – automatic number plate recognition (ANPR), body worn video (BWV) and unmanned aerial vehicles (drones).

Under Section 33(5) of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 the police, together with local authorities and a number of other organisations in England and Wales, are designated a Relevant Authority. This means they are required to show the surveillance camera code of practice due regard when operating overt surveillance camera systems under their control in public spaces.

This is something that the police take seriously as forces use a wide range of video surveillance camera capabilities such as ANPR, BWV, CCTV and drones. Forces are beginning to test video analytics from automatic facial recognition to other algorithms capable of spotting certain types of behaviour. Given the often sensitive nature of policing and the developing surveillance camera capabilities, it is particularly important that the public can have confidence in the police use of overt surveillance. Forces are working with the Surveillance Camera Commissioner and completing his self assessment tools to attain the third party certification mark.

Tony has recently written to all Chief Constables in England and Wales to ask them how they are meeting the 12 guiding principles in the Code in relation to the surveillance camera systems they operate. This is something I support and it will give us a greater understanding of the levels of compliance and where to focus efforts on raising that compliance, if needed, by encouraging completion of the self assessment tools or applications for the third party certification mark.

As part of the strategy we are working very closely with the local authority strand. Police Officers will utilise a lot of local authority CCTV cameras and it is important that we have strong working relationships, especially as we see austerity measures threatening local authority CCTV.  One of the key areas we are looking at is to develop a framework for service level agreements between local authorities and police forces for operation of cameras and sharing of the footage.

As the NPCC lead for CCTV, I aim to promote transparency in the use of surveillance cameras and also stem the threat of losing local authority CCTV cameras due to lack of funding. To achieve this I would like to collate statistical evidence of when police use ANPR, BWV and CCTV to understand the effectiveness of the cameras in relation to outcomes for crimes and to understand if it provides victims with a better outcome. Whilst mindful of unnecessary bureaucracy, this could be achieved through a data collection process used by the police for the Home Office. The NPCC CCTV working group has launched a website which aims to promote best practice of CCTV within policing to improve successful outcomes and to develop joint working practices between different policing portfolios where CCTV is an important delivery factor. Please take a look at that site and I’d be interested in any feedback you have

And in the meantime make sure you sign up for email alerts for Tony’s blog, register to receive information on products being developed as part of the strategy and also follow him on Twitter.

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