POLITICS & INSTITUTIONS - POLITICS

Crime

Law clarifies use of video surveillance 



Illustration photo shows a security CCTV camera in a car park Shutterstock

Illustration photo shows a security CCTV camera in a car park Shutterstock

Police video surveillance should in future only be used in areas where there is a risk of committing serious crime, under a new Luxembourg law. 

The bill, which parliament approved on Thursday, provides a clearer legal framework for the use of video surveillance by law enforcement for the prevention, investigation and detection of crime. 

Bill 7498 sets out the conditions for using CCTV as follows: images obtained by police through the Visupol network of video surveillance can be kept for a maximum of two months, except when required for investigations.

Footage of large-scale interventions can also be kept to analyse the intervention for police training purposes. Ministerial authorisation to install cameras is valid for three years. In order for permission to be granted, police must prove that they have exhausted all other crime prevention means.

The cameras should only be installed in publicly accessible places where there is a high risk of serious crime, places where there are regular national or international events, or entrances to places like stadiums and places where there tend to be large gatherings.  

A new consultative commission, independent from the police, will be responsible for issuing permits for CCTV installation and reviewing applications to extend surveillance. 

The law was influenced by a recent study commissioned by the internal security ministry to assess the effectiveness of video surveillance on crime prevention and investigation. The study showed that installing cameras led to a stabilisation effect in some neighbourhoods, “depending on the type of crime, while a crime displacement effect could not be conclusively established.”

According to the bill, video surveillance helped solve up to 40 crimes in 2019. The study found that the majority of the public polled felt video surveillance could contribute to a sense of security, but would not be as effective as improved visibility,  police presence. and lighting and maintenance of the public highway. 

It concluded: “Cameras do not have an influence on the phenomena of incivility or begging, and that even if they allow to secure certain areas or offer a safe zone to vulnerable populations, they do not fight crime.”

Currently, police cameras under the Visupol network are only installed in the capital. Under the bill, police will have to reapply for permits to use existing cameras within a maximum period of twelve months after the entry into force of the new law and in accordance with the new procedures.

The bill's reporter is Homeland Security and Defense Committee Chair Stephanie Empain (Dei Gréng). The bill was passed with 52 votes in favour, 4 votes against (Déi Lénk and Piraten) and 4 abstentions (ADR).