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PCC pitches into battle for taxi CCTV

A Police and Crime Commissioner has joined the battle to get CCTV installed in taxis.

The contentious battle over installing CCTV in taxis has heated up after Derbyshire’s PCC called for a county-wide scheme.

Angelique Foster has begun an attempt to end a stalemate over proposals by a district council to make CCTV compulsory in taxis - and called for other authorities in the area to do the same.

She has backed plans by North-East Derbyshire District Council mandating CCTV in all taxis to boost the safety of passengers and improve the detection of crime.

The PCC wants every council in Derbyshire to make it a condition of licencing.

Ms Foster said: "Public safety is paramount and anything we can do to protect passenger safety and reduce the risk of crime has to be embraced.”

Street safety for women and girls is top of the agenda, following the Sarah Everard case in which CCTV footage was crucial in convicting PC Wayne Couzens.

To achieve the PCC’s objective, the councils will have to resolve who pays for the extra demand as taxi drivers say they were already struggling to survive before COVID-19 struck.

The district council is not the first to make the demand and it’s also been on the national agenda for more than a year.

In North Yorkshire, Craven District Council’s licensing committee has made CCTV mandatory.

But it has also set a long lead-in time as drivers have warned they are unable to afford the installation costs which can be more than £600.

They had asked the council for loans, warning they had been hit by a drop in users before COVID-19 began and are struggling to recover.

So far 15 cameras have been fitted.

The area-by area battle has been triggered by the slow national response.

In July 2020, the Department for Transport (DfT) asked all licensing authorities should undertake a consultation on in-vehicle CCTV in taxis and private hire vehicles (PHVs).

The DfT ‘suggested’ that CCTV could provide an additional deterrent to prevent crime and help bring perpetrators to justice.

Transport for London – which is the biggest licencing authority because of its responsibility for black cabs – began its consultation in February this year.

It said: “When considering the timing of the next steps we will take into account the current situation and the impact the Coronavirus pandemic has had on taxi and private hire licensees in London.”

The other key mover is the Biometrics and Surveillance Camera Commissioner.

It warned any blanket schemes will have to be implemented carefully.

“Any proposed imposition of a blanket requirement to attach surveillance camera conditions as part of the conditions attached to a licence or certificate is likely to give rise to concerns about the proportionality of such an approach and will require an appropriately strong justification and must be kept under regular review,” the watchdog said.

“There are undoubtedly benefits from using CCTV in the ways under consultation. It can, for example, increase the safety and security of individuals and the extent to which they feel safe and secure which is subtly but importantly different; it can also deter criminal activity, and where crimes are committed, any captured footage can become vital evidence in ongoing investigations and prosecutions,” it added.

“However, the use of surveillance camera systems must always be proportionate, lawful, ethical and transparent.” 

The area-by area roll out also sets forces up for a repeat of the same problem with fixed CCTV systems: collecting evidence.

Old cameras still require manual downloading by an officer and there are multiple systems that don’t have a standard way of enabling data collection.

With multiple systems being retro-fitted to different vehicles which are constantly moving locations, investigation teams will have a new headache in accessing vital evidence.

In the absence of national action, other PCCs are looking at alternatives.

Merseyside PCC Emily Spurrel has begun a bystander training scheme for bus drivers, taxi drivers and station staff so they can spot potential offenders.

Ms Foster argued that wider public safety – and the huge costs of investigations – had to be a priority.

The PCC highlighted a case where Derbyshire Constabulary used footage taken from a taxi CCTV camera to assist in providing evidence to tackle a County Line that exploited young people and vulnerable adults.

The crucial footage enabled officers to submit compelling evidence which led to the successful prosecution of 11 individuals who received more than 40 years behind bars.

PCC Foster said: "Everyone has a right to feel safe and it is important we take practical steps to reduce risk or vulnerability where possible, particularly where it concerns the safety of women and girls.

"Small measures can save lives and I am calling on our local authority colleagues across Derbyshire to see the sense in this approach and follow this council's lead."

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