Security cameras at Northampton's new university campus could see into nearby houses for months

Muhammad Shah has revealed that cameras at the Waterside campus could see into nearby residential homes.
Muhammad Shah has revealed that cameras at the Waterside campus could see into nearby residential homes.

Neighbouring residents of the University of Northampton‘s new campus may have been unaware that security guards could see into their homes through a set of CCTV cameras, the Chronicle & Echo has learned.

At least half-a-dozen properties in New South Bridge Road and Malthouse Close, Far Cotton, sat in the line of sight of five of those cameras for nearly three months before the issue was rectified.

The approximate locations of the security cameras that could see into the houses in Malthouse Close.

The approximate locations of the security cameras that could see into the houses in Malthouse Close.

In some cases, the security system could apparently see into the bedrooms of the occupants; on occasions, security officers could “clearly see people coming in and out of the house and moving around”.

That is according to Muhammad Shah, a former security officer at the Waterside campus who says he quit in early November out of principle after raising concerns about the cameras on the south west of the site near car parks three and four.

The University of Northampton said it rectified the situation as soon as it became aware of it.

Mr Shah told the Chronicle & Echo that the direction of the cameras marked a clear breach of privacy.

“If I think I’m doing the right thing, I don’t care,” Mr Shah said.

“That could be my daughter in one of those houses, my son, my family. Those cameras should not have been able to see into those houses in any way.”

The camera security system went live at the start of August in the weeks before the official opening of the new campus.

On October 14, Mr Shah emailed the university’s head of security stating that camera 44, overlooking the number four car park on the south-west of the site, could see inside the bedrooms of homes in Malthouse Close – among others. He also informed the head of campus policing Sgt Lorna Clarke.

In the October 14 email, he claimed other cameras infringed the privacy of neighbouring residents too.

Head of security Becky Bradshaw emailed back on October 16 to say she would take ‘immediate steps’ to restrict the view of CCTV to the south-west of the campus.

A black marker was placed on the live footage of camera 44, so operatives could not see into the houses, but the other cameras were not amended.

On November 11, after quitting, Mr Shah emailed again to detail four other cameras which could still see into homes, yet were still operational.

The university says it placed black markers over the remaining cameras within 48 hours of being informed.

Security on-site is carried out in a joint effort between the university-employed staff and two different contractors.

The Waterside campus has two CCTV control rooms, one in the main Senate building and the other behind the visitors’ centre.

A spokeswoman for the University of Northampton said that once CCTV cameras have been installed, they undergo a final process of ‘fine-tuning’.

“It also identifies any areas which are not relevant and these are ‘blocked out’ – a process whereby the shape of the window, door or garden of a neighbouring property is obscured by black pixels,” she said.

“It is therefore impossible for the camera or anyone operating it to see the ‘blocked out’ area.

“When the university became aware this process hadn’t been fully completed, we took action to resolve the matter with our CCTV provider.”

Mr Shah claimed he raised his initial concerns over the direction of the CCTV cameras with the main security contractor on site, ICTS, on September 24.

A spokeswoman for the company, when asked why the direction of the cameras was not then passed on to the university, gave the following comment.

“For the past three year ICTS has been in the top scoring one per cent of the SIA (Security Industry Authority) approved contractor scheme, a scheme which requires annual testing, and can confirm that all management on this contract are correctly licensed.

“As a matter of policy we will not discuss any element of our client’s security practices and so are unable to comment further at this time.”