Are cameras in taxis a good idea?
A new law designed to improve the safety of taxi drivers in Wellington came into effect today.
From today, all taxis in Wellington are required to have a security camera and an emergency alert button installed.
The law was passed last December, a result of a number of serious attacks on taxi drivers, two of which resulted in deaths.
The cameras record images but not sound.
Some cab companies say the cameras will provide evidence for any passenger who had a complaint to make about the service they received.
The emergency buttons were designed to alert the company's depot call centre to any major problem immediately so other taxi drivers could be dispatched to support the driver in trouble.
However, some taxi companies say there will be an eventual increase in taxi fares to cover the installation costs, which is estimated at between $1000 and $1500 a camera.
Fewer than 100 of the country's 7000 taxis had cameras before the law come into effect.
The Privacy Commissioner's office had guidelines for agencies using CCTV security, including use, storage and retention of images and controlling who saw them.
Passengers must be made aware that cameras were operating and organisations could use the images only for the purpose for which they were collected.
The images can be kept for a limited period and viewed only by authorised staff in a secure monitoring room.
Assistant Privacy Commissioner Katrine Evans said cameras were a useful way of improving safety and some taxis already had them.
"But there's more to having a CCTV system than just installing the camera. For instance, there have to be policies in place to check that the cameras comply with privacy law, such as controlling who has access to the footage, how the images can be used or how long they're kept.
Taxi Federation executive director Tim Reddish said only authorised staff would be able to view the footage. Footage from cabs would "roll over" every four days so it was automatically deleted after that period.
Wellington Combined Taxis manager Kevin Braid previously told the Dominion Post that most drivers would support the proposal. The company had 442 vehicles in its fleet.
"Anything that makes it safer for drivers has to be a good thing."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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