CCTV plan to help police in fight against crime
Plans to streamline the existing way West Midlands Police accesses Birmingham City Council’s CCTV cameras for directed surveillance were discussed by Cabinet on September 15.
At present police officers have to go to the council’s CCTV control room with a proof of authorisation if they need to monitor cameras as part of their crime-fighting efforts.
But under the new protocol, registered police CCTV users will be able to contact the council’s control room and access the camera footage remotely, confirming that they hold the necessary authorisation and using a secure pin number, creating a clear audit trail of who is using the system and for what purpose.
The proposals have been discussed with the Office of the Surveillance Commissioners, who agree in principle to the plan, effectively a simplification of the existing practice, with added benefits from a data protection and criminal investigation perspective.
By implementing the new protocol, the police will be able to deal with incidents in a quicker and more secure way, as council staff will no longer have an undesirable level of access to sensitive information directly relating to police investigations – but the council will still have sufficient information to justify giving access to its CCTV systems for this purpose.
Cllr James McKay, Cabinet Member for Social Cohesion, Equalities and Community Safety, said: “The police have for many years accessed our CCTV footage, but the existing process through which they do this needs updating.
“Our aim is to ensure Birmingham’s citizens and visitors are as safe as possible, so when dealing with live criminal cases, police officers need to be able to do this in an efficient and effective way.
“This isn’t about introducing new cameras or extending the surveillance abilities of existing ones. The protocol we have drawn up formalises existing arrangements so those who are authorised to access CCTV within the police can go about their work to protect the public, while making sure that all the proper controls are in place.”
West Midlands Police Assistant Chief Constable Garry Forsyth, who oversees local policing in Birmingham, said: “The protocol will potentially save hundreds of hours of police time every month, speed up investigations and enable us to respond more swiftly to dynamic incidents.
“We’re grateful that Birmingham City Council has agreed to this protocol. Clearly it makes much more sense officers having access to CCTV footage from police stations rather than spending time travelling to and from the council control room.”