Wednesday 27 February 2008


Mistakes may be part of human nature, but they mustn't be at the expense of human lives

Here in the U.K., there has been much press and media coverage this week, over the conviction of Levi Bellfield, found guilty in the High Court of murdering two young women, and currently under suspicion for having committed further serious offences over a period of at least a decade.

On the website, an interesting article describes how mistakes were made in the investigations, amongst which, possibly vital CCTV recorded evidence was retrieved, but not reviewed by police at a time when it could possibly have helped towards tracking down the killer. 

It goes on to speculate that as a result of numerous operational mistakes made, the second victim was murdered, when the tragedy could conceivably have been prevented.

The loss of a young life is tragic under any circumstances, but when failings in the way in which essential CCTV recorded evidence is gathered, processed, reviewed and presented, has now become an almost routine problem both within the U.K.'s Criminal Justice System and increasingly similar institutions around the globe, it really is unacceptable for governments to allow the discipline of Forensic Surveillance (FS) to develop organically, rather than put in place robust mechanisms to design out many of the existing shortcomings.

The concept of specialising Forensic Surveillance perhaps along the lines of the way in which DNA evidence is currently utilised, has already been explored to some degree in the recently published National CCTV Strategy, and it would be much welcomed if some of the reports specific recommendations on this matter, were pursued with vigour.

Tragically, this situation is not without precedent, and if there were any possibility that useful lessons would be learned, ideally as a matter of priority, I for one would possibly sleep better in my bed. 

In all likelyhood, it's going to be a rough night .... and possibly with many more to come.

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Friday 22 February 2008


When time is of the essence ...

I happened to come across this story from the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and whilst the issue of time retention is one of the longest running arguments in the CCTV biz, the city authorities present period of 7 days is almost guaranteed to create more problems than it solves.

Historically, it's long been accepted that if Video Surveillance is correctly applied, it should be as beneficial in terms of exonerating the innocent, as it can be at identifying the guilty. The problem of course is that very often there can be a time delay between a crime being reported, and the investigating officers getting to locate the presence of CCTV, and in so doing, recover whatever recordings are available.

Here in the U.K., in most (but not all) situations, an individual that is captured on a security camera system, does have the right to request access to their 'recorded data', so in terms of gaining access to evidential recordings, in theory it should be fairly straightforward.

The problem appears to be with the San Francisco scenario, that whilst Public Defenders are prevented from accessing recordings that could assist their clients in proving their innocence, the law enforcement community are equally disadvantaged by what is an extremely short, and patently almost worthless 7 day retention period.

The U.K.'s Data Protection Act does make provision for recordings to be retained as long as is thought appropriate in a given situation, and generally speaking that has resulted in 31 days becoming the norm for Public Space surveillance systems. If the truth be told, there are situations where a longer period could easily be justified, but then the system operators would probably say that the increased cost of extended storage would generally not be outweighed, by the benefits to the data subject.

If it were simply a case of establishing innocence or guilt, then that could in theory be distilled down into a cost related equation, but where preservation of human life is increasingly a valid and predictable objective, one could be forgiven for asking whether it's time to invest a bit more considered thought, about what is such a vital constituent.


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Sunday 17 February 2008


Australian Police launch a registration scheme for CCTV Systems

News from Australia, where the New South Wales Police have today launched a voluntary registration scheme, to help build a detailed database listing all the privately operated CCTV Systems, located throughout the state.

Now the idea of a law enforcement agency listing details of existing Closed Circuit Television Systems is certainly not new in itself, but by recognising the potential for rapidly locating and retrieving vital security video recordings after the event, this approach has probably not been tried before over such a large geographical area.

It will be interesting to see how rapidly this approach is picked up and implemented by other police forces around the globe, and indeed how comfortably it sits with those most interested in upholding civil liberties.

Tuesday 12 February 2008


Taking a lead on using Closed Circuit Television

It's possibly fair to say that in an average week, I'll probably get to read through perhaps 2-300 stories about CCTV and video surveillance, so it's not that often I actually get to see something which makes me smile.

This story courtesy of those top newshounds at the BBC, has gone a long way towards renewing my faith in man's ability to spare no cost, when it comes to keeping an eye on his very best friend.

The idea that a "state of the art" CCTV vehicle costing many tens of thousands of pounds (perhaps US$ 100k, € 75k), could be tasked with tracking a gundog, whilst a gunman could conceivably go unnoticed just around the corner, somewhat beggars belief.

Will it tackle a genuine problem by helping to improve the 'clear up' rate? Quite possibly.
Can it be relied upon to bring more money into the council's coffers through the levying of "on the spot" fines? Undoubtedly. 

Could the same be said of tackling gun crime? 

Monday 11 February 2008


Now look what I've done .... !!

Hi folks, 

It's yet another maniacal Monday in old London Town, and in a moment of restful madness I thought what can I reasonably do to take my mind off writing about Closed Circuit Television? 

I know, I'll set up a blog so at least then I can get to write loads of meaningful tosh about whatever I like; but then the obvious problem is I really don't know that much about anything ... other than video surveillance!

So that leaves me with a bit of a quandry. Do I stick to my chosen subject or drift off aimlessly into the high and rarified atmosphere of bluish sky thinking, whatever that happens to be.

Oh well I've done it now, so we'll just have to see how this blogging lark goes.

What can I tell you? Wellll .... I'm actually a CCTV Advisor by profession, which is what I like to describe as a Consultant without attitude. My specialisation is so specialised that I really only do it for special people. 

OK so I'm a CCTV System Profiler; that'll teach you to be curious!

Which means ?.... I analyse the problems that people are trying to address using security cameras, and then work out the most efficient way of achieving those objectives; simple eh?

The only slight problem is that CCTV System Profilers are about as popular as an ice cream salesman on the dark side of the moon. If a client is starting from scratch they rarely want to spend any money on doing something they think they can do just as well themselves, and if they already have a camera system in place, they certainly don't want to part with any hard earned cash on employing the services of someone who is going to tell them they've done it all wrong.

Methinks this probably wasn't a particularly smart career move.

Oh well, after almost 30 years in the biz, I suppose it's best to stick with the devil you know.

There you go, first post done, which was surprisingly less painful than I had expected, but then I don't have to read it!

Hopefully my next bit of scribbling will be a bit more 'on topic', but if you want to see what I get up to on an average working day, you are always welcome to visit my humble website.

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