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Privacy concerns as our councils spend £1.8m on CCTV cameras

By Adrian Rutherford

Published 23/02/2016

Northern Ireland's councils have spent at least £1.8 million on closed-circuit television cameras in the past three years, sparking concerns over people's privacy
Northern Ireland's councils have spent at least £1.8 million on closed-circuit television cameras in the past three years, sparking concerns over people's privacy

Northern Ireland's councils have spent at least £1.8 million on closed-circuit television cameras in the past three years, sparking concerns over people's privacy.

More than 200 surveillance cameras are in operation, a new report claimed.

Campaign group Big Brother Watch found nine councils spent £1,813,735 on installing, operating and maintaining their CCTV network.

Two councils were unable to provide figures, meaning the final cost will be higher.

Big Brother Watch said privacy should be given as much weight as security.

It investigated the number of CCTV cameras in operation across the UK between 2012 and 2015.

In Northern Ireland, one council spent almost £400,000 on CCTV. A total of £381,549 was allocated by the three councils which became Newry, Mourne and Down District Council in April 2015.

A further £307,000 was spent by Ards and North Down Borough Council.

In 2013, the then North Down Borough Council was criticised after a row of CCTV cameras were installed to catch a bin-hoker.

It followed repeated incidents of rubbish being lifted out of bins and strewn in gardens in the Towerview Crescent area of Bangor.

The council erected large metal poles and signs alerting people to the presence of cameras.

Elsewhere, Derry City and Strabane District Council spent £290,721 on CCTV.

Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council spent £281,860 while Mid-Ulster District Council spent £174,000.

It is understood there are in excess of 120 cameras in Belfast.

Big Brother Watch was unable to obtain figures from Belfast City Council or Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council.

Across the UK, Big Brother Watch found local authorities control at least 45,284 CCTV cameras, a 12.5% decrease from 2012.

At least £277m has been spent on the installation, maintenance and monitoring of these devices, a decrease of 46.4% from 2012.

This included £38.2m on installing CCTV, £140m on maintaining cameras and just under £100m on the wages and salary costs of CCTV operators.

All the data was obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

Renate Samson, chief executive of Big Brother Watch, said: "While the findings of this report appear encouraging, the reduction in spending may be nothing more than a lull before the storm of more intrusive, biometric or 3D cameras appearing on our streets.

"Should councils wish to invest in smart digital CCTV systems we urge them to do so by proper consultation with local residents.

"A measured approach should be taken with any surveillance system.

"Privacy should always be given as much weight as security."

Big Brother Watch said councils should report statistics on crimes detected, investigated and solved by each camera to prove the necessity.

It also wants a single point of contact to oversee CCTV use and resolve complaints.

Belfast Telegraph

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