The pros and cons of the city’s now extensive camera coverage was debated in the Guildhall on Tuesday with members acknowledging it may be used positively to clampdown on litter louts and fly-tippers but with others raising concerns about ‘Big Brother’.
At a meeting of Derry City and Strabane District Council’s Governance and Strategic Planning Committee members agreed to recommend the adoption of a new draft CCTV policy.
This has been prepared to make sure the local authority’s use of cameras remains compliant with the Data Protection Act and the Information Commissioner’s Office’s code of practice, given the rapid pace of technological change.
In a report presented to the committee, it was revealed how extensively Derry is now surveilled.
For example, there’s CCTV on council buildings, public space cameras for special events, temporary public space cameras targeting litter louts and irresponsible dog owners and body worn video cameras used occasionally by enforcement staff operating in public areas.
Sinn Féin Councillor Mickey Cooper said he was happy to endorse the policy, which would “give us a statutory framework” to address issues such as fly-tipping, dumping and dog-fouling.
“It’s envisaged that once it’s adopted, the council will, amongst other things, be able to install cameras and signage in Rosemount and other areas affected by illegal dumping and dog fouling which will provide both a visual deterrent and also better enforcement options against offenders,” said Mr. Cooper.
“Up until now we have only been able to deal with the dumping issue reactively by getting area cleanups carried out as council had no policy on the use of cameras,” he added.
However, Independent Councillor Gary Donnelly said that he had “some concerns about the use of surveillance” and suggested that with the ubiquity of monitoring cameras throughout the country generally “we are living under the ‘Big Brother’ scenario.”
Colr. Donnelly said he had no objection to the use of CCTV to clampdown on dog-fouling and fly-tipping but worried about the use of cameras to monitor political activists.
“We don’t have to look very far when you look at the recent revelations that even Ian Paisley was being recorded by the State,” he said.
Independent Maurice Devenney, however, welcomed the adoption of the draft policy and said the use of CCTV was “good business.”
“If you’re not doing anything wrong, it’s not going to do you any harm,” he commented.