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Editor's Blog and Industry Comments

Review of Home Office National CCTV Strategy.

23 October, 2007
The British Home Office has just released its long awaited strategy document covering public service and local authority use of CCTV technology. ProsecurityZone took a look at the document to see what it means for the security industry.
Yesterday, the BSIA laid out the welcome mat for the CCTV strategy document from the Home Office, applauding the step towards a more holistic approach to specifying and deploying CCTV technology in the UK, a statement which is reflected by many in the industry along with end users, the police and the British justice system.

The strategy has been in demand for a long time owing to the fragmented approach to CCTV deployment by local authorities up to now. The UK is seen as being the shining star of Europe in terms of the number of CCTV systems deployed, the level of Government funding and its effectiveness in fighting crime and bringing criminals to justice. However, with the rapid changes in technology and the variance in deployment strategies so far exhibited, it was clearly time to introduce a well-defined and actionable strategy from central Government.

The strategy is broken down into 10 areas, each of which is examined in detail with a set of recommendations for putting the strategy into practice.

The first area was unsurprisingly about standards and focuses largely on the migration away from analogue systems to digital camera networks. Although this can in no way be deemed a bad thing, in terms of standardisation, there are many more available formats for digital recording than there are for analogue systems. Hence, the strategy details a number of actions, the first of which is to agree on a standard digital recording format. The recommendations also suggest the specification of a minimum image quality standard to overcome the woeful examples of footage that would never reach court standards that exist in some local authorities today.

The second area covered registration, inspection and enforcement and centres mainly about conformance to the amended Data Protection Act of 1998 which covers the use and retention of CCTV images. The recommendations involve removing ambiguity within the act and instigating a tighter system of registration, licensing and control of CCTV operators.

Training was covered in the third section specifying the need to more rigid training regimes for operators of increasingly complex surveillance systems in order to improve evidential quality for use in the courts.

Police use of CCTV was an important section and deals with standardising image retention periods across the forces, improvements in operational procedures and the development of evidence gathering using intelligent applications such as ANPR. In connection with this, the strategy also covers the use of CCTV within the overall criminal justice system and recommends improved communications with the Crown Prosecution Service on video evidence requirements.

A section of the strategy deals with staying abreast of the rapidly changing marketplace and advocates closer co-operation with research bodies, universities and manufacturers, have some input into standards development and create a nationwide collaborative structure for the sharing of intelligence and images to counteract serious crimes.

Finally, the report recommends the establishment of a national governing body and improvements in the central Government funding mechanism and the use of key performance indicators to gain visibility of the effectiveness of surveillance systems and what areas can be improved.

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