General Assembly 2011 / CCTV: exchange of experiences and call from Guilherme Pinto to have the Charter signed

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Three presentations were made at the General Assembly in Genoa on the theme of CCTV: Emma Butler, from the Office of the Commissioner for Information (ICO)/ working group Article 29 (United-Kingdom), Jean-Pierre Havrin, Deputy Mayor in charge of Prevention and Security for the city of Toulouse (France) and Ineke Nierstrasz, Chief Advisor, department of Public Safety of the city of Rotterdam (Netherlands).
Also, the theme was addressed by Marcello Sasso, representative of Genoa’s Safe City department (Direzione Città Sicura). He said that Italian law protects fundamental rights along the lines of the principles stated in the Charter for a democratic use of video surveillance. “It is the role of cities to promote the welfare of their citizens and the quality of life on urban territory,” he declared. “In this sense, video surveillance can be a useful tool provided it is integrated in a global action plan.”

The Charter for a democratic use of video surveillance which came out of the European project on CCTV led by the Efus, is very positive, said Emma Butler in the name of the working group Article 29. The Group 29 is an independent European working group dealing with issues related to the protection of private data. It includes the “commissions on privacy” of the 27 State members of the EU, as well as the European inspector for data protection. She added: “CCTV today is more sophisticated and thus requires more sophisticated systems for data protection.” Data protection and respect of privacy are important themes in Europe,  “and we encourage you to keep up your work in this field and to keep us informed”.

Jean-Pierre Havrin explained how Toulouse led a wide consultation before setting its video surveillance system. He said: “We had a problem because the government was trying to convince us that CCTV is a magical tool, and that it could compensate the drastic staff reducation in the police, with 10,000 jobs being suppressed in three years. Our approach was to consider CCTV for what it really is: a tool among others, that can sometimes help to improve the safety and security of citizens.”
Toulouse followed a four-steps process over a period of four months prior to installing its CCTV system: it started by a debate between French and European experts, in which Efus participated, followed by a debate with public authorities, in the framework of the Local Council for Security and Crime Prevention. Then, local residents were consulted and lastly, the whole project was presented and debated at the Municipal Council. The Council decided, among other things, to create a commission on public liberties and to endorse the Charter for a democratic use of video surveillance.

Ineke Nierstrasz said that Rotterdam -which has signed the Charter- is very favourable to CCTV. A port city of 600,000 inhabitants, Rotterdam set up its first CCTV systems ten years ago. “Each of our cameras was set up following a meticulous preparation procedure,” she added. “Our method of work is expensive, and so are the CCTV systems themselves. This is why we always analyse the ratio between cost and result, and up to now the result has been very positive for the city.”

Speaking for the Committee of the Regions, Luc Van den Brande stressed that CCTV “is a very important tool for prevention and safety in urban areas” and that the theme of data protection is essential for the EU. He said: “In this context, your initiative for a Charter for a democratic use of video-surveillance is indeed very useful and provides a sound basis for reconciling the need to guarantee security and ensure the respect of the rights and liberties of the individuals. Based on seven simple, but very important principles as well as plenty of recommendations and guidelines, the Charter is a very practical tool useful to cities, which want to address their security concerns in a comprehensive way. On behalf of the Committee of the Regions, I would like to congratulate you for this initiative and to pledge our support for its further dissemination.”
Guilherme Pinto, Efus President, closed the debate by asking member cities to disseminate the Charter: “Our challenge for our next meeting is that each of us will have had the Charter signed by various cities,” he concluded.