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What local Councils can teach us about IP camera procurement

Pole with security cameraA recent report in a Scottish newspaper described how a local Council had refused planning permission for CCTV cameras at the local prison.

On the surface, it seems quite incredible that a council should refuse funding for a prison – of all places. If there’s any place more in need of effective video surveillance, surely it must be a prison!

However, although this may appear strange at first, the devil is always to be found in the detail.

What is perhaps even more surprising is that at NW Systems, we agree with the Council for refusing to support this project.

Read on for a full description of our rationale, and feel free to jump in with your views and comments at the end.

IP cameras at Greenock Prison

In August 2012, Inverclyde Council refused an application for a £50,000 CCTV system that would be placed along the perimeter of Greenock Prison to prevent illegal substances and proscribed items being thrown over the wall to inmates.

According to an Inverclyde Council spokesperson, the reasons for the refusal were to do with issues surrounding resident concerns over the invasion of privacy and the failure of the proposal to meet adequate regulatory controls:

“Any new CCTV cameras need to be tested against rules that set out to protect the privacy of nearby residents. The prison sits close to local housing and the scheme put forward had to be refused because it couldn’t meet the conditions which would have needed to be put in place.”

Robust IP camera consultation

In general, here at NW Systems Group, what we see with these sort of articles in the press is that any level of common sense seems to have disappeared, and often at the expense of the taxpayer.

Here for example, the scheme was not approved because cameras with 360° views were proposed which would also capture video images from the surrounding area. In other words, the cameras would capture more than is necessary for their main purpose, which is, to prevent contraband being thrown over the prison wall.

The first thing to consider is that this is a very basic system design error and one which is easily rectified through proper consultation. With a simple but rigorous question and answer process, it is relatively easy to tease out the business, community and security objectives that need to be considered throughout the consultative process.

In this way, it is possible to build a proposal that will deliver a satisfactory package of technical equipment, monitoring devices as well as invaluable training, supervision and reporting processes.

The second point is that the cameras proposed could have quite easily been restricted to a narrower area of coverage (easily done within the cameras themselves, either via what is called “privacy masking” or physically limiting the movement of the cameras). In this way, the IP cameras would be fit for purpose regardless, removing the need for the scheme to be re-referred for approval.

We fail to understand why basic errors like this still occur within our industry. You would have thought that after 40 years of CCTV use in the UK we would have passed this point.

Your turn

Why do you think organisations are still being sold wrongly-designed systems? What is your view of how companies and organisations can avoid being sold ineffectual products and services in the (IP) video surveillance industry? Do you think privacy rights should always trump security issues?

What are your views? Jump in to the comments with any IP camera system experiences you can share on the subject. Your insight is valued and appreciated.

If you think this piece would be of value to a person or organisation you know, please feel free to share with them.

Alternatively, you can email your views privately to [email protected]

Can’t get enough of this discussion?

This blog piece is a very basic summary of some of the big issues surrounding the appropriate handling, management, regulation and monitoring of CCTV cameras in our towns and cities.

We will be discussing wider issues in more depth as time continues through this blog. If you would like further reading, check these invaluable sources:

Published on December 5th, 2012 by Frank Crouwel

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