Justice Ministry: Cameras violate privacy

Police plans for school surveillance come under fire.

security camera 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
security camera 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Police plans to set up a pilot scheme involving the installation of CCTV cameras in 12 schools this year came under fire from the Ministry of Justice’s Public Defense unit on Sunday.
Under the pilot scheme, police will link up cameras overlooking school buildings and playgrounds to regional police commands and municipal control centers.
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The initiative is aimed at enabling police to respond rapidly to incidents of student violence or terrorist attacks.
The camera project is funded by the Education Ministry, Interior Ministry, local authorities and the Israel Police. At the end of the school year, authorities will meet to decide whether to expand the initiative to more schools.
But Justice’s Public Defense unit said the pilot lacked proper government oversight and harmed students’ rights to privacy.
In a letter sent to Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein, the unit said, “Despite the sensitivities involved, there has been no effort made to regulate the hastened move of installing cameras and operating them in a way that will obligate the Israel Police and the various municipalities.”
“It seems considerations based on protection of privacy, including the need to minimize the use of the cameras and giving preference to alternative means, or limiting their use in certain areas, hardly received attention,” the letter continued.
The authors went on to call for government legislation to regulate the use of police video monitoring of the public, and protested what they described as “creating facts on the ground” through pilot schemes.
The project is run by the Israel Police’s Security Division, and is the latest in a series of steps designed to improve security for schools.
Recent steps have included increased training for school security guards, with an emphasis on firearms training and self-defense, and personal communications courses for the guards.
School guards will also be equipped with pepper spray this coming school year.
The City Without Violence Program, which is backed by the Public Security Ministry, police, schools, social services, and others, has led the way in CCTV camera installations in Israel.
Under the program, cameras in 78 regional councils and cities have been installed over recent months and years, which transmit their images to municipal control rooms. The presence of the cameras has led to reductions in street crime, the program’s backers have said.
The pilot comes on the heels of a survey carried out by police in local authorities and the Education Ministry.
The schools that will participate in the pilot will represent Israel’s diverse communities, and will include Jewish, Muslim, secular, and religious schools. The Education Ministry drew up the list.