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Netherlands: Municipalities May Deploy Flexible Cameras for Surveillance

(Apr. 11, 2016) On March 22, 2016, the Dutch Senate (Eerste Kamer) approved a legislative proposal that gives municipalities in the Netherlands more options in using cameras for surveillance purposes (i.e., CCTV). Instead of relying only on cameras in previously agreed upon, fixed locations, the authorities will be able to deploy cameras flexibly to handle disturbances that occur in various places, nuisances such as those “caused by loitering, drug dealers, muggers and pickpockets.” (The Senate Approves the Use of Flexible Camera Surveillance in Municipalities, Government of the Netherlands website (Mar. 22, 2016).)

The legislation amends article 151c of the Municipalities Law to give mayors the power to use the cameras in a particular area for a certain period to conduct surveillance. According to the Senate website on the legislation, the government wants to use the mobile video surveillance to help make citizens feel more secure in public spaces. (33.582: Verruiming bevoegdheid burgemeester tot de inzet van cameratoezicht [33.582: Broadening the Competence of the Mayor to Deploy CCTV], Eerste Kamer website(last visited Mar. 27, 2016); Gemeentewet [Municipalities Law] (Feb. 14, 1992, as last amended effective Feb. 1, 2016), OVERHEID.NL; Municipalities Act (as at Nov. 12, 2013), Government of the Netherlands website (click on link to download).)

At present, fixed cameras “are used for static and long-term supervision of areas with an increased risk of disturbances in the public order, for example in shopping streets or entertainment areas,” and “are situated on building facades or eaves,” so that they “cannot be deployed quickly when combating nuisance that shifts from one place to another.” (The Senate Approves the Use of Flexible Camera Surveillance in Municipalities, supra.) Under the amended provisions, each municipality will have the authority to decide which type of camera surveillance, fixed or mobile, best suits its needs. (Id.) Use of flexible camera surveillance is also time-saving, it is argued, “because separate procedures will no longer be required for each displacement.” (Id.)

Under the new procedures, after obtaining approval from the City Council, the mayor may designate an area in which cameras may be placed or moved around, an area that “may not be larger than is strictly necessary for maintaining public order, such as a square or a few streets.” (Id.) The authorities must post signs to inform the public that camera surveillance is being conducted. Once the use of the cameras is no longer necessary, the mayor is to withdraw the designation of the area as being under camera surveillance.  (Id.)