Two members of Long Leys Residents Association (LLRA) recently had the opportunity to visit the CCTV unit at the City Council offices in Beaumont Fee, along with other groups from the Carholme Community Forum (CCF). Gary Stimson and Jon Davies (LLRA Chair and Secretary) spent 90 minutes in the CCTV control room, learning how CCTV is used in Lincoln. They also learnt of the data protection responsibilities that CCTV operators, whether professionals or homeowners, must consider.
CCTV in the City
There are some 430 CCTV cameras used in the main public areas of Lincoln, linked wirelessly to the control unit at the City Council which is staffed 24/7 by a single operator. The cameras are used for public safety, successfully locating lost and vulnerable people, as well as crime prevention and recording. The CCTV system is linked to the police by video and radio, meaning images can be supplied of any incidents in real time. A CCTV operator can ensure that there is an appropriate and urgent response to an incident, such as a collapsed pedestrian needing medical attention, when required.
Last year the CCTV team were involved in monitoring 14,000 specific incidents in the city centre, leading to at least 1,200 arrests. CCTV was also used to establish the innocence of a number of people.
CCTV cameras include fixed cameras, which keep track of an area continuously and PTZ cameras (Pan–Tilt–Zoom cameras) which can be used to provide closer detail of an incident. These cameras are of evidence quality, meaning they can be used in court as evidence. The network of cameras provides a “safe zone” around city centre shops and nightclubs, including pedestrian areas such as the High Street, the Glory Hole, the Cornhill and Bailgate.
The LLRA members came away impressed with the organisation and professionalism of the CCTV unit. Technology continues to develop, and one particularly interesting sight was to see the system automatically alert the CCTV operator to some incidents, allowing the operator to consider whether further intervention was necessary, either by council staff or the police.
Part of the reason for LLRA’s visit was to explore whether CCTV could be included as an additional safety element in an upgraded Whittons Park children’s playpark. It was helpful to learn that the recent upgrade to Boultham Park also included CCTV coverage in key areas. Before CCTV could be considered as part of the Whittons Park upgrade, further discussions between LLRA/WERA, City of Lincoln Council and the Surveillance Camera Commissioner would most likely be required
Data Protection in The City
There is always a balance to be struck between public protection and individual rights, so it was reassuring to have an explanation of how data protection issues were tackled. The system keeps all recordings for 15 days before deleting them, except when they are part of a specific incident when they will be archived for longer. The 15-day period was chosen as it is rare for the police to request CCTV evidence older than 15 days.
The CCTV system mainly covers shopping/commercial areas of the city but mixed in with this are some residential homes. Thoughtful siting of the camera generally prevents intrusion of privacy but where this is not possible then the system blanks out the area covering private land with a mask. Most modern CCTV system now have this facility.
The whole system is regulated by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) who enforces the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Data Protection Act 2018 (DPA). In addition, the Surveillance Camera Commissioner (SCC) oversees compliance with the Surveillance Camera Code of Practice (the SC Code) and its 12 guiding principles, which ensures that surveillance camera systems are only operated proportionately, transparently and effectively.
Data Protection & Home CCTV Systems
For most of us it is hard to keep up to date with CCTV legislation so the information below may assist you in deciding whether your system complies.
If your domestic CCTV system captures images of people outside the boundary of your private domestic property – for example, from neighbours’ homes or gardens, shared spaces, or from public areas – then the GDPR and the DPA will apply to you. You will need to ensure your use of CCTV complies with these laws. Three key aspects to consider are:
1. It is important to consider the privacy of others. Ask yourself:
- where will I position the CCTV to minimise intrusion into my neighbours’ and other people’s privacy?
- will the range of the cameras include my neighbours’ property, gardens, pavements or other areas? If so, you could consider systems that can reduce intrusion, such as those which have privacy filters
- how will my neighbours feel about my CCTV?
2. Ensure that you are transparent to those around you when installing your CCTV system. You can do this by:
- informing your neighbour(s) about your system
- putting up a notice informing people that recording is taking place
3: Once you have installed your CCTV system, you should regularly check that:
- you are complying with the GDPR and the DPA if your CCTV system captures images outside the boundaries of your home
- you regularly delete the recordings and do not keep them for longer than is necessary for the protection of your property
- your CCTV system is still needed
- it is important that you check your system regularly to make sure that it is working properly (this may include cleaning any debris affecting the CCTV device and wiping it down after bad weather)
- you should also check the position of your CCTV device from time to time to make sure it still captures the right images and privacy intrusion is minimised
You can read more about the use of domestic CCTV at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/domestic-cctv-using-cctv-systems-on-your-property/domestic-cctv-using-cctv-systems-on-your-property