Would CCTV improve the Oblong space?

We pride ourselves at Oblong at listening to people and lots of what i am hearing back from surveys, at the bob-along and in conversation around security is that ‘its not secure in the I.C.T area’ and the stand out solution seems to be CCTV is the best bet.

Personally i have mixed opinions on this. First, i completely agree it is less secure in the I.C.T area (but not as much as you think) and secondly my initial emotional reaction to the idea of CCTV is that its some big brother invasion of mine and your civil liberties and statistically doesn’t deter crime.

I am more than willing to challenge my own assumption that CCTV is a bad thing but please do stay with me as i explain how i think the perception of a lack of security is probably greater than the actual lack of security.

So why is it suddenly less secure? something must have changed. Actually yes something did change and fundamentally so. Prior to running the building we used a small office on Meanwood road during the refurbishment. Before that we used a single room in the basement (Zen Buddhist room). Before that we occupied a large open plan office just behind the Chemic.

During the day if you had been working or volunteering for Oblong for more than a few weeks you could easily know 90% of the faces and most people by name. The culture at Oblong engendered a mutual respect and high levels of trust between people and you could leave valuables out without a problem.

We did have some occasional petty thefts but nothing significant. The space created was not what you call a public space it was for Oblong staff and volunteers to work and be sociable. Previously we had no trouble attracting volunteers and anyone interested or ‘like-minded’ would gravitate to the space, understand the unwritten social codes and fit in fairly quickly.

Our ambition is to open up to the whole community of Woodhouse. This means maintaining a safe and respectful space in line with our values but it does run the risk of the odd bad apple taking advantage. Personally i haven’t had anything stolen but several staff and volunteers have and i understand it is very upsetting. The introduction of the membership scheme seems to have stopped things but there is a need to be more risk aware than previously. Thinking back i have noticed a change in my own behavior and it is unfortunate but i do try not to leave out valuables if i am leaving my desk and i always lock the office door when its empty.

The change i think is that the I.C.T area has morphed from an open plan work space to a public work space and i think we need to take some responsibility to uphold the values of Oblong but try and self police the space also.

In the last 2 years since we have been running the centre we have had a huge diverse group of people volunteer, join as members and use the space. This is quite a shift from the radical arts space many years ago. There is much more older and retired people coming in and lots of under 25’s. We have to encourage this as the ‘fear of the unknown’ or someones ‘face doesn’t fit’ is not what Oblong is about. Its open to all adults and the more we engage with diverse groups the more they will take ownership of the space for themselves.

This is why i think the perception of a lack of security probably outweighs the genuine lack of security. For anyone who has been involved with Oblong for many years it does require a change in behavior and it is hard.

So would CCTV help? To be honest I am not convinced. It is very difficult and expensive to have all areas covered and someone then has to watch over the footage, maintain it etc. I used to work at a large bar when i was studying and one of the managers tasks for the whole shift was to watch the CCTV to look for theft. The whole dynamic that ‘i expect you to do something bad that’s why i am watching you’ stinks to me. Would you really want to be watched all the time by a camera while working in the I.C.T area? Does this sound like an ‘Oblong’ way of doing things?

Oblong is driven by the values. Its not what we do its how we do it. Don’t let all the amazing variety of different apples we have had through the door in the last few years be spoilt by a few bad ones.

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