Taxi CCTV cameras given council go-ahead

Taxi driver Dave Wilkinson will be installing a new CCTV security camera system inside his cab. Picture: Jane Barlow

Taxi driver Dave Wilkinson will be installing a new CCTV security camera system inside his cab. Picture: Jane Barlow

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CCTV cameras are set to be installed in 40 black cabs for the first time to protect drivers – but they won’t be able to view the footage.

City Cabs has announced it is giving its taxi drivers the option to have their vehicle fitted with a safety camera, after the scheme was approved by the city council.

Les McVay, the company secretary, said that having cab cameras will make drivers feel safe at work and will “defuse” any situation that may arise in the vehicle between a driver and a passenger. However the footage can only be viewed by the council or police.

Mr McVay said it was an important move to protect his drivers. “There is a growing trend in passengers, cyclists and road users recording activities and then being selective in what they use.

“For example, one driver picked up five people at 2am on a Sunday in Edinburgh. There were three guys and two girls, the driver was racially abused and asked them to get out of the vehicle.”

He explained that four of the passengers got out but one didn’t.

Mr McVay, who has been a taxi driver for 35 years, added: “It was one of the taxis with sliding doors, and the door hadn’t been shut properly when the driver drove off.

“The guy then filmed the taxi from then on with the door open and shouting help. He tried to charge the driver with holding a customer against their will.”

Mr McVay said the cameras would also help with situations such as road traffic accidents and people refusing to pay.

However, the cameras have only been approved by the council under certain conditions.

Mr McVay added: “The licence holder is the data controller.

“All the information from the camera must be stored securely and if it is not, it is the licence holder that will be prosecuted.

“Cabs will be fitted with an encrypted box that will work on a 21-28 day loop, and then it will overwrite itself.

“The only way the footage will be viewed is if the police or the council ask to see it.”

Mr McVay said he was concerned many passengers would think there will be people watching them 24/7 via monitors but stressed this will not be the case.

The new cameras will also be fitted with a part-time audio function, that will act as a “panic button” for drivers.

It gives drivers the ability to record what is being said in their taxi for four minutes – in the event they were being 
verbally abused.

Gavin Barrie, convenor of the regulatory and licensing sub-committee said: “We think it is a positive move and we encourage taxi drivers to take up the opportunity. It will remain voluntary.”

He added: “There is always going to be public service disputes between customers and taxi drivers.”