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A Buyers Toolkit – “How can I get what I really need, rather than what they want to sell me?”

Alastair Thomas here! As project manager, I want to use this guest blog to tell you more about the Buyers Toolkit currently being prepared for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that are thinking about buying surveillance camera systems. The toolkit is one of the deliverables from the National Surveillance Camera Strategy for England and Wales. It aims to help non experts in SMEs who may find advice and guidance in the SCC’s Passport to Compliance a little too detailed and complex for their particular needs.

Call it what you will - CCTV, a surveillance camera system or video surveillance systems (VSS) – when thinking of buying or procuring a system where do you start in making informed decisions which lead to appropriate use of VSS in mitigation of your risks, and to meet good practice and legal obligations? The Surveillance Camera Code of Practice sets out the Government’s position which is that, where used appropriately, VSS are valuable tools which contribute to public safety and security by protecting both people and property. But what is appropriate? The Code of Practice tells us the Government is fully supportive of the use of overt VSS in a public place for a legitimate purpose and aim, wherever that use is necessary, proportionate, transparent, effective, and compliant with any relevant legal obligations.

At this point I should add my opinion that, whether or not the aim is to view public places, all VSS will benefit from following good practice in meeting legal responsibilities.
I am working in support of a small group of dedicated professionals to deliver a toolkit to fill the information gap which currently exists whenever a non-expert in an SME wants to start talking with the experts about VSS installation. Right now, you could in some circumstances end up with a system designed and sold on the basis of cost and sales targets rather than designed and sold to meet your particular needs. The risk is that such a system may leave you out of pocket and be unfit for purpose. It may not allow you to manage or retrieve data in accordance with legal requirements or to support the investigation of an incident. It may leave you cyber vulnerable to hackers.

If you are not an expert where VSS is concerned and are considering acquiring a new system then the Buyers Toolkit will help you know what questions to ask yourself and your suppliers. Not only can those questions lead to you understanding your operational requirement (and whether video surveillance is really necessary to solve your problems and minimise your risks), they can also ensure you get a system in which you and others can have confidence which is fit for its intended purpose.

In developing the Buyers Toolkit through a collaboration led by the BSIA, Tony Porter, the Surveillance Camera Commissioner, is drawing on the knowledge and experience of some outstanding industry experts to create what we hope to be an online master class in good practice. With tips, template and worked examples, the toolkit is intended to help in the specification of an operational requirement and then in buying, validating and running a system which meets good practice and legal obligations.
When can you expect to see this toolkit? We now plan to launch it before the end of April 2018.

If you have already registered your interest then you may expect to hear directly about plans for the launch and where to find the Buyers Toolkit.

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