Thursday, July 16, 2009

One Nation Under Surveillance ... but not quite in Westminster

Questions need to be asked.

Who was responsible for this blunder?

Meanwhile, a comparison needs to be made of the number of crimes or incidents witnessed and subsequently detected by CCTV and the number of PCNs issued and paid. We will then understand the real reason for CCTV.

Camden New Journal
10 July 2009
West End Extra - by JAMIE WELHAM

Three-week surveillance blackout in £15million system ‘blunder’

THE entire network of central London’s wireless CCTV cameras will be switched off for three weeks sparking fears that hundreds of crimes will go undetected. The surveillance blackout, which it was hoped could be avoided, will start at the beginning of August, coming about because the council has been forced to upgrade more than 100 wireless cameras due to a bizarre legal ruling.

In a huge blunder, nobody at the council realised the brand new camera system fell short of government specifications when they purchased it for £15million. The cameras represent almost half of the authority’s CCTV network, and while principally used for parking enforcement, they are also used as a tool to tackle crime and disorder. Anxiety is rising ahead of the switch-off, with some fearing it could spell a boon time for criminals looking to exploit the blind spot in the surveillance panorama.It will cost the council £850,000 to upgrade the resolution, as well as thousands of pounds in lost earnings from parking cheats who can break the rules with virtual impunity.

Since the Department for Transport (DfT) pixel size regulations came into force on April 1, the less than a year-old £15million network, which monitors roads around the West End, Victoria, Bayswater, Marylebone, Oxford Street and Belgravia, has not been used for stationary parking enforcement, although it has been monitoring moving traffic contraventions, community protection and city management.

The council have been furiously lobbying the DfT since April to try to reach an agreement that would let the cameras stay as they are, but their pleas have been ignored. A report seen by the council’s city management and finance bosses says: “In order to meet the required resolution, a new digital encoding device will be installed in all wireless cameras. The works will involve: Remove all cameras from the street; Replace the existing digital encoders within the camera units; Test the camera; and Reinstall the cameras on street.”

The report goes on to say that all “archived video footage will be lost during the process”. The initial forecast for the shutdown was three months, but now the council claims it can be done in three weeks.

Karen Buck, MP for Regent’s Park and Kensington North, said: “It is deeply worrying. Crimes will go undetected because of it. Clearly someone at the council has made a massive blunder here, and the taxpayers are paying for it.”

John Zamit, chairman of the South East Bayswater Residents Association, said: “We think it’s a disgrace. The only reason they are doing this is so they can raise more revenue from innocent pensioners stopping for three minutes on single yellow lines.”

The council has played down the decision, which was given the green light by cabinet member for city management Danny Chalkley and cabinet member for finance Melvyn Caplan earlier this month.

The council predicts it will make an £11.4m surplus from parking enforcement in 2009/10. Without cameras it would need to spend an extra £1.9m on parking wardens to make up the lost earnings. Under the DfT legislation, traffic cameras must be capable of recording at 720 x 576 pixels, but Westminster’s picture quality is 704 x 576 pixels.

Kevin Goad, Westminster Council’s assistant director of parking, said: “Despite having state-of-the-art parking cameras that use digital technology the DfT has advised that we carry out a software upgrade.“This will take between two to three weeks, during which these particular cameras will not be in use. We will have extra parking attendants on our streets to ensure motorists continue to park safely and sensibly. This work does not in any way affect our main CCTV network which is used to prevent crime and keep Westminster residents and visitors safe.”

1 comment:

Digital CCTV Cameras said...

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