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Clooney Clashes with Council over Proposed CCTV Cameras

George Clooney and his wife Amal have clashed with the local council over plans to extend the CCTV system around their Berkshire property. The Grade-II listed mansion, which was purchased last October, has already received approval for a number of additions, but a proposed network of CCTV cameras installed on poles around the property have begun to cause problems for the noted actor.

The nine-bedroom, £10million property in question rests in the village of Sonning Eye, just outside of Reading, Berkshire. Clooney and his wife – a human rights lawyer – have already received permission to begin work on a new swimming pool, pool house, and home cinema, as well as new boundary fencing. They reportedly plan to move into the 17th-century Mill House later in the year once all work and renovations have been completed, but it is the addition of new security equipment which is causing difficulties for the newly married couple.

The proposed system would erect a total of eighteen cameras around their luxury home. This CCTV system would include eight cameras mounted on poles around the property’s grounds, and a further 10 attached to the Grade II listed building itself. To provide the couple peace of mind and heightened protection, each camera would be housed in a secure, damage-resistant dome which could be moved to face in any desired direction. To provide panoramic visibility, six poles would be 4 m high, one would reach 5 m, and one would be 6m.

However, these proposals have raised objections from Eye and Dunsden Parish Council. The council has objected to the couple’s plans, arguing that the wide range of the cameras would go beyond the needs of basic security to represent ‘potential infringement of the privacy of neighbouring properties’.

This would therefore amount to a’visual intrusion’ into the conservation areas of the village. Council officials responded to the plans by stating that: ‘A more appropriate security system could be achieved by a greater number of inward-facing low-level cameras.’ However, the South Oxfordshire District Council’s conservation officer has argued that the cameras should be approved as long as they can be quickly and easily removed from the building without causing any damage.

The Eye and Dunsden Parish Council approved the swimming pool and other projects over two months ago, and will soon reach a decision as to the proposed CCTV system.

Councils Have Been Turning Off CCTV Equipment to Save Money

It has been recently revealed that councils across England and Wales are turning off CCTV cameras in order to lower their operating costs, a surveillance watchdog has reported. As underlined by Tony Porter, the surveillance camera commissioner, the switching off of cameras will doubtlessly make it harder for crime to be detected and for criminals to be apprehended.

Mr Porter levelled blame at the recent austerity cuts, noting the slashed budgets had led councils to move money away from CCTV equipment in public space. This didn’t just effect the equipment itself, but meant that less money was available for staff training.

Mr Porter stated that: “There are an increasing number of examples where councils and employees are citing a lack of money as being the rationale to reduce the service or completely change its composition – and that does concern me. Most people recognise the utility of CCTV for supporting law enforcement. To degrade the capacity may have an impact on police. It may well be that they will find it increasingly difficult to acquire the images that will help them investigate crimes.”

The UK is recognised across the globe for its vast network of CCTV cameras; the country currently employs the largest number in the word. The British Security Industry Association (BSIA) estimates that, of the 4-5.9 million cameras in the country, around one in seventy are publicly owned.

Mr Porter drew attention to the need for councils to sake greater accountability for their use of the technology, warning of the potential misuses of cameras. Complaining that councils in many large towns have stopped monitoring their systems on a 24-7 basis – in order to save money rather than due to a review or public consultation – he predicted that the lessening of public space CCTV would lead to a deterioration of standards.

Crime figures have been falling in England and Wales, with communities generally being the safest they have been since the independent Crime Survey for England and Wales began in 1981, but this progress could be retarded by a decreased use of CCTV technology. Mr Porter ultimately argued that usage should be decided by elected local councillors to reflect local circumstances and the wishes of the community in general.

Of course, these revelations also underline the need for business premises to be fitted with their own independent CCTV systems, ensuring that they remain protected in the event of council owned cameras being either inactive or unmonitored.

Police Spy on Comedian Michael McIntyre

Police have been forced to leap to the defence of a picture taken of the comedian Michael McIntyreby a helicopter team. Snapped while standing in a London street, the picture was posted on the National Police Air Service’s London twitter account. The caption read: “Whilst on tasking [sic] in central London this morning we spotted a certain energetic funny man … Can you guess who?”

The picture itself was taken by a surveillance camera positioned outside of the Global Radio offices in Leicester Square, and has raised the ire of several social media users. The image was quickly attacked as inappropriate with many calling into question the likelihood of Mr McIntyre’s permission being sought and referring to the photo as an abuse of the team’s surveillance powers.

As summed up by Edward Davie, a Labour councillor for Lambeth: “You do a great job but this is dodgy. Do you have permission to post pics of these people from a spy cam on Twitter?”

The helicopter surveillance which is use by the Metropolitan police is overseen by the National Police Air Service, which has regional bases positioned across the country. Supt Richard Watson, the ground operations director for the NPAS, stated that: “We are aware of the tweet and, as far as we are aware, it does not breach any data protection legislation. We feel however it was inappropriate and it has since been removed. We will be speaking to the person who posted the tweet.”

The aircraft employ a range of highly sophisticated digital cameras which are used to take high-resolution images for use in evidence or to provide officers with assistance while planning or conducting operations. These systems are also able to stream live footage back to command bases. It has been reported that planes fitted with equipment capable of intercepting phone calls are also frequently flown across London by the police.

Such a commanding network is impressive, but draws questions concerning legitimate usage, especially in situations such as this. Gerard Batten, aUkip MEP for London, spoke out against the photo by arguing that: “The photograph of Michael McIntyre by a police helicopter and its publishing online is a gross misuse of police power. It isn’t some private citizen taking a snap of a passing celebrity, this is the police, abusing their authority.”

As Mr Batten went on to say, “The implications for civil liberties raised by this are appalling to consider. This isn’t Hollywood, this is real life.”

Hikvision Remains World’s Biggest Surveillance Brand by Doubling In Size

Hikvision Digital Technology, already the world’s largest supplier of video surveillance products, has solidified its status at the top of the industry according to research conducted by IHS.

Though only established in 2001, Hikvision, which is headquartered in Hangzhou, China, now accounts for 16.3% of the global surveillance equipment market. It has grown its market share by revenue by 50% year-on-year, doubling its overall share in the past two years.

The company now leads every CCTV/surveillance equipment category – including the global network security camera market, overtaking previous leader Axis Communications with a rise from 13% to 18.9%. Hikvision is also ranked number two in the CCTV and video surveillance equipment category for the EMEA market, claiming a 9.2% share, and has begun to make a significant impact on overseas markets.

It only takes a quick look at the data provided courtesy of HIS to recognise just how efficiently the Chinese company has come to dominate each surveillance category over the past two years. In each of the following categories, Hikvision has taken the number one spot:

  • CCTV & Video Surveillance Equipment
  • Security Cameras
  • Analogue Security Cameras
  • Network Security Cameras
  • Video Encoders
  • Hardware NVR’s
  • DVR’s
  • Megapixel Network Security Cameras
  • Network Video Surveillance Equipment

Only the VMS category is not topped by Hikvision, but their influence is growing. Though still only at the number four spot, their market share has increased from 3.8% in 2013 and 5.4% in 2014 right up to 5.8% in 2015, so it seems likely that headway will continue in coming years.

As stated by Cynthia Ho, Vice President at Hikvision: “We are very pleased to see Hikvision’s rankings in CCTV and video surveillance equipment. This is an attribute to our continuous R&D innovation and investment. Importantly, we move forward with the rapidly developing market trends of IP surveillance which benefits us the great achievements in IP product segments.”

The company currently employs over 13,000, with research and development staff accounting for more than 4,000. Listed on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange with a market capitalisation of US $5.6 billion, their rapid takeover of the market serves to underscore the importance of quality over brand loyalty when it comes to security equipment.

As stated by Ho: “Looking forward, we will continue to seize every opportunity to meet the market need and keep investing in R&D, offering more benefits and service to our customers.”

Trained Mice: The Future of Aviation Security

Airport security has found a new ally – the humble mouse. Specially-trained dogs might have become a common site in airports, but their patrols could be scooped by these more diminutive deputies, as X-Test, an Israeli security firm, puts forward the claim that mice are far more effective at detecting explosives than other methods.

Yuval Amsterdam, the firm’s vice-president and formerbomb-disposal expert in the Israel Defence Forces claims to have put together a more sophisticated detection system, with mice as the prime part. According to Mr Amsterdam, mice are able to sense suspicious items just as well as dogs, but are at the same time easier to train, smaller, and far cheaper.

Should his system prevail, security checkpoints in the near future will employ these creatures in order to help detect terrorists. Far from being let lose, the mice in question will simply be contained within cages and subtly sniff those who pass by.

If a substance which they have been trained to identify is detected they will be able to produce a signal. Unlike dogs, mice can be trained in large groups using machines, so the results – in theory – would be more reliable. In the words of Mr Amsterdam, “Once they are trained, they become bio-sensors.”

It should go without saying that aviation security has seen massive investment and attention during the 21st century, but experts argue that problems can still be exploited due to practical restraints. Explosive trace tests, for example, are extremely effective but can only be used on a few passengers.

X-Test hope that mice might hold the answer due to their size and affordability. It is also expected that they would be able to identify any explosives which have been implanted within the body, something which has been long-regarded as a key weakness in airside security measures.

As stated by Philip Baum, editor of Aviation Security International: “We do not currently have explosive detection capability in our portals, or an accepted way of detecting ‘internal carries’. The mice just might plug that security hole.”

No UK airport has yet put mice on the pay-roll, but developers hope that this will change, especially when taking the flexibility of the program into account. “We can teach them anything that has a scent – whether it’s explosives, whether it’s drugs, whether it’s ivory in Africa. Anything that has a smell,” added Mr Amsterdam.