I would like to raise the moral question of whether, by releasing
certain information, a newspaper could be considered to have posed a
risk to public safety.
York’s CCTV cameras have recently come
under scrutiny from the city’s local newspaper, the Yorkshire Evening
Press. The newspaper was approached by an unnamed source with details
of CCTV cameras in the city that were not working correctly. The paper
then approached the council (which operates the CCTV network) to
confirm the story. They made clear their intention to publish the full
list of defective cameras, detailing where the faulty ones were
located, despite the knowledge that work to correct the problem was
underway and that in a matter of days, all but one camera would be
The council and the police both asked the paper not to
publish the location of the faulty cameras for the obvious reason that
if people were aware which ones were down, criminals might feel they
could commit crimes in those areas with impunity. In the event the
paper not only published the full list, but also a map of the city,
pinpointing the cameras that were malfunctioning.
We all accept
the Evening Press’s right to publish the story and the council’s
responsibility for maintaining the CCTV network properly. What we
cannot accept is a local newspaper that prides itself on its community
role publishing a list and map highlighting the parts of the city that
become more unsafe as a result of that information.
Where would the responsibility be if someone had been attacked in one of those blind spots?
Tim Madgwick chief superintendent, North Yorkshire Police – Central Area;
David Atkinson chief executive, City of York Council