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Mobile CCTV in Cambridge

Manos | 08.06.2004 11:39 | Free Spaces | Repression | Cambridge

The attentive Cambridge residant might notice the new devices on Mill Road lamposts. They are a new generation of mobile CCTV cameras, that promise to solve all your problems. But you you know all the details behind the scheme?

A new "mobile CCTV" camera has been installed in the cross ection of Mill Road and Tenison Road. This is part of a new generation of surveillance cameras, that are quicker to deploy and cheaper than fixed ones. Of little practical use for tackling serious crime, a lot of controversy has already stigmatize this initiative; most of it without much media attention.

The first proposals to install mobile CCTV cameras were made to the city council as early as March 2003. A number of reports and assessments were drafted about the number of cameras, their type and the overall cost of the project. Finally it was decided that two (2) Radio Wave cameras will be purchased at the total cost of more than 100.000 pounds.

At the same time the idea that Mill Road needs to have cameras installed was also floated. A council report (by Head of Property & Building Services) describes the implications and costs of such a scheme. Strangely it admits that "violent crime offenses are not likely to be affected by CCTV coverage if they are alcohol-related. Along Mill Road, in both 2000 and 2001, pedestrian and household surveys revealed that people feel that drunk and disorderly behavior is an increasing problem in the area." Burglary is another crime that might not be affected.

A year later mobile CCTV cameras were bought, and installed in Mill Road. Their deployment strangely coincided with the ban on alcohol, and the notices forbidding gatherings on Mill Road, and giving powers to the police to disperse them. This scheme itself was subject to a lot of controversy: the council wanted to use a by-law to impose it (which would not be legal) while the home office provided special statutory tools for such policies (Designated Public Places Order (DPPO)). At the same time a press release from the lib dems (that control the council) claim a first victory for the mobile CCTV scheme: an incident of anti-social behaviour (could be anything including being drunk).

Is CCTV in this area really for reducing crime? Not really, just for a bit more social control. As the councilors say they have agreed with the police "to use new police dispersal powers to deal with anti-social behavior on the streets and these are proving very effective in conjunction with other powers and new mobile CCTV surveillance." Social clensing is in progress ...

The hype:

Description of options and costs for mobile CCTV:

Mill road CCTV assessment

Map of the Mill Road area:

The DPPO story (Cambridge evening news)
Lib dem response:

All CCTV cameras in the city & what they are used for:

Freedom of Information: Community Safety and Crime

More documents (Annual control room reports) - including broken links:



Encroachment of CCTV into Residential Areas

03.12.2005 00:42

One of Cambridge's redeployable CCTV (RCCTV) cameras has just been put up at the end of my residential road, in a mainly residential area, though the field of view of the camera covers three shops and a church, this prompted me to look into this area.

I have a number of concerns:

1. While I support CCTV in the town centre, and other public areas, I oppose the use of CCTV in residential areas, and this camera has just appeared at the end of my street. I feel this is an excessive invasion of my privacy.

2. I am concerned that the placing of this camera is not in line with the information on CCTV cameras that is made available via the council web site. Specifically I believe the camera is inappropriately of a domed - hidden camera variety, and that the signage accompanying it is either not present or inadequate.

3. The council's information on CCTV which it makes available via its website is incomplete and inconsistent, which obstructs people making informed comment on CCTV. Specifically information on the police link is inconsistent, and there is no information on the security of the radio transmission of video from RCCTV cameras.

4. While the city council is fairly open about its use of CCTV, I feel comment on the city council's CCTV operations can not be taken alone, and while private / corporate use is mentioned, I would like to see a mention of "traffic CCTV", and any other state run cameras in the region - what they are doing, who regulates them etc. I believe there are some of these in the city - why aren't these subject to the same degree of openness as the city council cameras?

I am now going to expand on the above concerns:

The council's own "RCCTV Deployment Guidelines" state:
"12.1 RCCTV cameras will be mounted within the public view and with clear signage indicating their use within the area. "

The camera mounted on a lamp post (there are two brackets, with the camera apparently being moved between them) and is housed within an opaque dome. I believe this is contrary to the 2005 revision of the Code of Practice for the CCTV System used by Cambridge City Council which states cameras in domes will only be used in car parks. Section 1.3 states:
"All cameras are sited so that they are clearly visible, except in car parks, where cameras are mounted within protective domes."

I walk through the area covered by this camera often and have not seen any signage, therefore I believe any signage that is present is inadequate. Again the code of practice:
"Publicity will be given to the system by clear signing within the monitored area. This will ensure that both the maximum deterrent value is achieved and that the public are clearly aware when they are in a monitored area."

I would like to additionally suggest that those living close to the cameras, especially those living within the line of sight of the cameras be specifically informed of their siting.

Neither the RCCTV deployment guidelines or the code of practice for the CCTV system make any comment on the security of the radio link between the RCCTV cameras and the control centre - I believe the council should be open about if the feed is encrypted, or if everyone in the vicinity with appropriate equipment can view it. If the person commenting on this thread is correct then they've got nothing to hide here - why not tell us.

While Cambridge's CCTV code of practice this week I was surprised at the apparent lack of close integration with the police, with what initially struck me as a limited capability to pass only a single video feed onto a police control room. However, on this subject the 2004-5 Annual Report states:
"A police ‘Airwave’ secure radio has been installed in the CCTV Control Room. This radio enables us to monitor and speak to police officers on the ground in Cambridge, Ely and Soham. The radio has proven to be a great success, speeding up Operator re-action times and increasing the flow of accurate and..."

This appears to me to be a great improvement in the flow of information to the police and is something I support, but it is not mentioned in the 2005 revision of the code of practice as made available on the city council's website, in fact it is inconsistent with the two means of contact described in the code of practice - via an ISDN link to the control room, or on specific occasions when a police liaison officer is present in the control room. I feel it is important that we are given accurate information on the use of CCTV by the council, so we are able to make our informed views on it known.

PubClub and Shopwatch which the 04-5 annual report indicates are important channels for the use of CCTV information in Cambridge are also not mentioned in the code of practice - I see this as another omission. How the CCTV operators work with these organisations is something I see as as, if not more important than how they operate with the police. Can club bouncers request CCTV operators to follow individuals?

All above referenced documents are available from:

The CCTV operators manual is refered to, but it not one of the documents made available.

There is no mention of any automated software for face / number plate recognition, automated tracking of individuals - if this is being used or considered there should be an open debate about it.

Are software "blocks" on camera operators viewing private areas - eg. into people's houses put into place on the redeployable cameras - the available information appears unclear on this.



Hide the following 5 comments


08.06.2004 12:38

The obsession with powers to 'disperse gatherings' is pointlessly authoritarian and rooted in Orwellian doublethink - people socialising in a *public* place becomes 'antisocial behaviour' in itself, whereas staying in alone in front of the tv is presumably 'social'. Perhaps some 'modification' of the CCTV equipment is in order:



Advise 'Liberty' of this infingement of rights

08.06.2004 13:23

Let 'Liberty' ( know about this infringement of rights - they are campaigning against the use of these social control measures and are looking to take up appropriate cases.



09.06.2004 00:01

Anyone know on what frequency/frequencies these "radio wave" cameras operate? Could be good for a bit of hacking...?!



09.06.2004 03:16

What waste of a hundred grand!

Never mind tackling the root causes of crime, (poverty, homelessness, drug addiction etc.) - just throw more money and resources at dealing with the symptoms instead,
by spending more money on pointless tricknology like CCTV.

Meanwhile, the use of it is culturally 'legitemised' by putting voyeur-vision 'reality' shows on our TVs (as well as spy-in-the-sky shows), which portray the use of this kind of spyware as socially acceptable.

It's quite well documented now that all CCTV does is move certain crimes elsewhere - that is to say, the muggers and rapists go somewhere else, as opposed to it actually stopping anything from happening.

And anyway, if you're drunk, you're too off your nut to care if you're on camera or not when you hit someone because you thought they'd insulted you!

The only place CCTV is good for is the scrapyard!!


Oh, and by the way, given the new byelaw we now seem to have against drinking in public in Cambridge - are the cops going to stop people having a barbie and a beer in the park on a hot summer day..?

Now, THAT would be popular, wouldn't it?!

See No Evil

I know the answers

24.07.2004 18:21

I work for the company that supplies these types of cctv systems and they have indeed supplied these units to cambridge but on a much larger scale than most think. The cameras are what are known as rapid deployment and a network of receivers have been located all around the area allowing for the installation of the cameras at strategic locations within mnutes all monitored directly and instantly live! Each camera system to a coucil costs between 10 and 12 K so if they have spent 100K that should give some indication of the amount of camera systems they actually have!

As for the frequencies utilised fopr the transmission they will be on any of the three licence exempt video frequencies available at present namely 1394 hz, 2400 -2499 hz & 5800-5899 Hz. The video images though will be encrypted utilising 128bit encryption and the data control bus for the cameras is also emncrypted so even if you are able to hack the image would be a waste of time unfortunately!