Australian Institute of Criminology

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Step 6: Installing, trialling and running the CCTV system

After careful consideration has been given to the costs and the potential effectiveness of the public space CCTV system (based on a thorough understanding of local crime), then arrangements should be made for installing and trialling the system. This process will involve the coordination of numerous activities and require the involvement of numerous stakeholders.

Promotion of the CCTV system

The NSW Government Policy Statement and Guidelines for the Establishment and Implementation of CCTV in Public Spaces (NSW Government 2000) stipulates the need to develop information strategies to inform the public about the operation of the scheme. This helps to address concerns that people may be unwittingly watched. Beyond the civil libertarian arguments, there are also potential crime prevention benefits in such promotion.

Some research suggests that advertising and promotion of crime prevention initiatives, including CCTV, can have a positive impact, with reduced crime rates often prior to the actual commencement of the specific initiative. This phenomenon is known as the 'anticipatory benefits effect'. By alerting would-be offenders to the operation of the CCTV system, it is possible that decisions to engage in offending may change.

First, decisions will have to be made regarding:

  • establishing the objectives for the system;
  • the type of system to be installed—a wireless system will have different requirements to a digital or internet protocol system;
  • the number and location of cameras to be installed;
  • the location and specifications of the control room;
  • the installation of signage to promote the presence of the cameras; and
  • modification of existing infrastructure to ensure optimum vision for cameras.

Second, some of these processes will include:

  • engaging a consultant or CCTV company to undertake this work;
  • identifying existing fibre optic cabling or conduits to run fibre optic cabling;
  • understanding the power requirements of the chosen cameras;
  • negotiating with private property owners if cameras are to be placed on their buildings;
  • creating signs/symbols to warn people that CCTV cameras operate in the area;
  • trialling cameras in different locations to see if any climatic conditions (especially severe heat) and lighting conditions adversely affect the quality of the images;
  • printing captured images to determine their utility for evidentiary purposes;
  • trialling the control room systems to ensure that cameras can be manoeuvred;
  • testing communication systems to ensure that control room staff can liaise swiftly and directly with local police;
  • drafting SOPs and checking that they are workable, then revising as required;
  • establishing systems to record requests for images and procedures for granting permission to access images; and
  • devising complaint procedures and promoting these procedures.

Box 13: Real life example 5—Taking your time to find the best solution: partnerships within council (City of Swan, WA)

Swan Council has applied an innovative approach in implementing its CCTV system. A key goal has been to focus on building an integrated, holistic system with high levels of collaboration across council and a clear idea of what the requirements are before installing any cameras. Community Safety & Places has worked closely with the council's IT department and building asset management, to plan and take the extra time to develop a future strategy for the council, which includes a CCTV system as one component.

This strategy has meant the council is able to ensure the foundations are laid for a network system which will allow greater capabilities.

As such, incorporating extra cameras in the future will be easier. Swan Council has spent time investigating the type of network and IT infrastructure that will best suit its needs and will be capable of handling increased activity through the network. Swan Council also upgraded its existing data storage unit, to increase its capacity, before installing any cameras.

'Take your time and have a clear picture in mind of what your requirements are and then source the best solution, which should also incorporate a solid plan for the future.'

(Swan Council staff member, personal communication 2009).

Box 14: Privacy considerations

Some of the criticisms raised in relation to CCTV systems are the spread of surveillance and the associated breach of privacy, a failure to clearly identify who can access the images, the practices of control room staff and decisions about who they decide to monitor, the right to access and use public space free of electronic surveillance and wider concerns about social control.

The Australian Government's Office of the Privacy Commissioner published the Community Attitudes to Privacy 2007 report, which contains the findings of questions posed on privacy issues. Of the 1,503 respondents, 79 percent stated that they were not concerned about the use of CCTV in public places. A small sample (203) of this larger group (1,503), were asked about their main concerns regarding CCTV in public places. The list of concerns included the following:

  • information may be misused (54%);
  • invasion of privacy (45%);
  • it makes me uncomfortable (13%); and
  • not effective in stopping crime/false sense of security (4%)

A useful publication is the CCTV Code of Practice developed by the Information Commissioner's Office (2008). While the report relates to the United Kingdom, the issues raised regarding data protection for CCTV systems are relevant to the Australian context.

The establishment of public space CCTV systems should consider the following as ways of addressing privacy concerns:

  • Comply with state and territory privacy legislation—each Australian jurisdiction has various government controls regarding maintaining privacy and protecting personal information. The relevant legislation should be consulted and agencies responsible for privacy contacted to ensure all relevant considerations are addressed.
  • Policies on accessing images—establishing procedures for accessing images will help protect privacy. If the images captured are to be used for law enforcement purposes, then there should be clear procedures on how police (and related agencies) can apply for and access particular images.
  • Complaint procedures—establishing and advertising complaint procedures will ensure that there is an opportunity for people to raise concerns about the operation of the public space CCTV system. These concerns will then ideally be considered by a relevant committee or group with authority to make changes where required.
  • Guidance and training for control room personnel—all staff involved in monitoring the captured images should be educated on the ethics of monitoring. Inappropriate use of the cameras and images gathered will undermine confidence in a public space CCTV system.
  • Audits—conducting regular audits of the system, which involves checking the images gathered by control room staff and the images provided to law enforcement agencies, will help to maintain the integrity of control room staff, the collection of images and the system as a whole.