Installing the device in one of my colleagues’ London cabs would probably record a diatribe relating Boris or Capello’s ability to manage England.
But our nearest neighbouring city – Oxford – has brought in legislation which requires its 107 black cabbies and 545 private hire drivers to fit two CCTV cameras into their vehicles at a cost to each driver of £460 per vehicle.
The requirement comes into force next April for newly licensed vehicles and all existing vehicles have until April 2012 to comply. The cameras will begin recording sound and vision from the moment the ignition is turned on and continues recording for 30 minutes after the engine has stopped running. Fully encrypted the images will remain on the CCTV hard drive for 28 days before being erased.
The move towards ‘Little Brother’ in your cab follows a rise of complaints in the city forcing Oxford City Council’s general purposes licensing committee to have the devices installed and when fitted they claim the images will protect drivers and passengers alike.
I can envisage Endemol will soon be requesting footage to feature in their new reality programme ‘You’ll never guess who I just had in my cab’; following close upon the heels of the Inland Revenue who no doubt will be taking a keen interest in cab driver’s working patterns.
After Oxford it can only be a matter of time before we get Boris Broadcasts in London. In 2009/2010 the last reported period 143 sexual assaults were recorded committed by “cabbies” according to TfL an increase of 54 per cent over the previous period. Installing this system into London’s cabs TfL could argue would protect female passengers in London at night.
The only weakness in that argument is that almost all assaults in London hired vehicles are committed by unlicensed vehicle drivers. Spreading like a virus since the downturn of the economy and TfL’s inability to monitor satellite offices, these minicabs can be found outside almost every club in London. Many are not licensed so any legislation to introduce cameras into cabs would be pointless until they rid the streets of these dangerous individuals.
Will passengers have a choice of travelling in a CCTV vehicle or one without the equipment installed and what would happen of two politicians or members of the security services returning from a couple of drinks started discussing important classified information, not realising they’re being recorded.
CCTV in buses and trains in one thing, but my passengers pay a privacy premium for travelling in my cab; I won’t even strike up a conversation with them unless they should speak first. The back of a taxi should be regarded as a private place, and there is something distinctly wrong, almost menacing, about them having internal surveillance. Saying if you’ve done nothing wrong you’ve got nothing to worry about has never been a good enough argument for such attacks on our civil liberties.