What is your councillor doing to protect your privacy and save five/six figure sums?

What could be worse than spying on law-abiding residents with CCTV cameras – not forgetting that those under surveillance are forced to pay the horrendous costs of the spying equipment? The answer is surely CCTV cameras that bark orders like Robocop: ‘Stop, this is a restricted area and your photograph is being taken. It will be sent for processing if you don’t leave the area now.’ An Orwellian scenario? Yes. Unfortunately, however, it is also true. Jim Jepps, a resident of Camden, has told how neighbours going about their daily lives were barked at by a CCTV camera:

‘But this is a residential area, 10 feet from our front door, 99 per cent of people who get snapped and shouted at by this thing are residents going about their business, having a smoke or walking their dogs,’ he added.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2097559/Leave-area-Council-installs-CCTV-camera-barks-orders-like-Robocop-residents-communal-garden.html#ixzz1lj7IvX4I

The audio effect was turned off after residents’ complaints. Camden Council claim they had installed the cameras following expressions of concern about anti-social behaviour. However, Home Office statistics show no recorded crime in the area in 2011. You don’t suppose someone wasn’t being terribly truthful there, do you? Remember that the technology comes at a cost, yet it seems no costs are spared in erecting more equipment.

In the data protection age it is odd that Google street and CCTV are at liberty to capture images of us, our houses and our habits. Do things work the other way around? No.  I’m grateful to WRT for the following:

Extract from Standing Orders

53 Attendance of the Public and Press

The admission of members of the public and reporters to the Council Chamber shall be subject to the condition that no expression of dissent or approval, conversation or interruption to the proceedings of the Council shall take place nor shall any person, other than a person authorised by the Council, record on tape or by other mechanical means the proceedings of the Council, or record photographic or electronic images of such proceedings. In the event of the breach of this condition, the Mayor may order the person so offending to be removed from the Council Chamber.

The above is how Douglas Council treats members of the public, it seems. Councillor Richard Kissack has been querying the value of CCTV. In times of financial constraints this would seem to be an important issue. Yet it appears there has been little interest from other councillors. Are Douglas residents aware how much of their hard-earned cash has been spent on spying on them in recent years? It’s time to start asking questions.

There have been previous comments about the Brave New World of Douglas North Quay. It simply isn’t very nice to be spied on while parking your car to go about your daily life. Quayside businesses might benefit from a relaxation of the surveillance there. I know that I now avoid the area. Does that apply to others as well? It has nothing to do with having something to hide, it is simply an innate desire to be trusted and not spied upon. After all, we have to trust government – advisors and all!

Could if be that there are lessons to be learnt from the barking CCTV cameras story:

  1. The camera was apparently not necessary.
  2. There is no proof that it was requested
  3. The camera was immediately deactivated following the publicity and complaints.

So perhaps we need to enquire about the reasons for installing CCTV and we most certainly need to enquire about the costs. Above all, however, it seems that drawing attention to the UK CCTV scam is what really prompts action. We do have the power.

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One comment on “What is your councillor doing to protect your privacy and save five/six figure sums?

  1. Standing Orders of Douglas Borough Council are under active revision by the Policy and Resources Committee.

    People need to write to the Council suggesting:

    1. Standing Orders are published on the Council website
    2. That Item 53 be relaxed to allow members of the public to record Council proceedings in any way both audio and visual

    Contact:

    M. Theresa Saxon
    Democratic Services Officer
    Town Hall
    Ridgeway Street
    Douglas
    Isle of Man
    IM1 1EP

    email: tsaxon@douglas.gov.im
    Telephone: (01624) 696311
    Fax: (01624) 696400
    http://www.douglas.gov.im

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