FOI request detail

ULEZ Cameras

Request ID: FOI-0970-2324
Date published: 27 July 2023

You asked

I am writing to request the following information about the vandalism and theft of Ulez cameras since 1 January 2022 under the Environmental Information Regulations (2004). Under the EIRs, there is a presumption in favour of disclosure for any information on measures “such as policies, legislation, plans, programmes, environmental agreements, and activities affecting or likely to affect” state of elements of the environment, such as air and atmosphere. Ulez is a policy undertaken by TfL and the Mayor’s office to reduce emissions in Greater London. Therefore, I note that this request is covered by Section 12(9), which states: “To the extent that the environmental information to be disclosed relates to information on emissions, a public authority shall not be entitled to refuse to disclose that information under an exception referred to in paragraphs (5)(d) to (g).” I believe this request is in the public interest, as it would inform the public of the cost to the taxpayer of efforts to frustrate Ulez’s expansion, and its resulting drop on vehicle emissions, and also inform them of the prevalence of this phenomenon of theft and vandalism. The information sought: 1. Since January 1 2022 to present date, how many reports of instances of vandalism or theft to Ulez cameras in total have been received by TfL? Please break down this total figure by month. 2. Of the total number of cameras reported vandalised or stolen, how many were located in the current Ulez area, bounded by the north and south circular? Please break down this figure by month. 3. Of the total number of cameras reported vandalised or stolen, how many were located in areas not currently covered by Ulez - ie those in areas which will become covered by Ulez when it expands to cover all London boroughs on August 29? Please break down this figure by month. 4. For the total number of cameras vandalised or stolen - the figure supplied in question one - please provide the cost to TfL, whether actual or estimated, that these thefts and damage has caused. 5. Has any commercial third-party, excluding the Metropolitan Police or other public bodies, been contracted or otherwise engaged by TfL or the GLA to investigate the phenomenon of theft and vandalism of Ulez cameras? If so, please provide the name of that company or person, and a copy of the terms, contract or scope of that investigation.

We answered

Our Ref:         FOI-0970-2324

Thank you for your request received on 3 July 2023 asking for information about Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) cameras.

Your request has been considered in accordance with the requirements of the Environmental Information Regulations (EIR) and our information access policy.  We do hold the information you require.

In accordance with the EIR, we are not obliged to supply any of the information as it is subject to a statutory exception to the right of access to information under regulations R12(5)(a) – international relations, defence, national security & public safety (in this instance specifically public safety), regulation 12(5)(b) – the course of justice, the ability of a person to receive a fair trial or the ability of the public authority to conduct and inquiry of a criminal or disciplinary nature – (in this instance specifically the course of justice), and regulation 12(5)(e) – confidentially of commercial or industrial information where such confidentiality is provide by law to protect a legitimate economic interest.

In all three cases, we consider that the release of this information would be likely to cause the prejudice or harm indicated by the exceptions, by encouraging vandalism to target our traffic enforcement cameras. Whilst we make no suggestion that you would use this information for anything other than you own personal interest, disclosure of this information to you has to be regarded as a disclosure to ‘the public at large’.

Some of the cameras being targeted may have a live electricity supply to them and lives could be endangered by individuals tampering with the wiring, as well as the potential danger to individuals from falling from equipment or being involved in road traffic accidents whilst carrying out these activities. We believe that there is good reason to conclude that release of the requested information would lead to an increase in incidents of vandalism to our cameras by encouraging other like-minded individuals to do the same, therefore there is a risk to the health and safety of individuals.

The TfL network is often the target of graffiti and other vandalism, and anything that encourages this or can be used to assist with this criminal activity is detrimental to our efforts to combat it. There have already been several reported incidents of damage to our infrastructure in the media. Our view is that release of the information requested would be likely to encourage further instances of copycat vandalism by making TfL assets a more attractive target for further vandalism as well as providing useful information to those who have previously and may wish to carry out these criminal attacks.

There is a clear direct financial cost to TfL in dealing with vandalism both in terms of protecting cameras from such crime and in dealing with the consequences when it does occur. These costs comprise the repair works as well as the subsequent disruption it causes to the road network in having to repair cameras and close sections of the footway and roads to facilitate this. This not only leads to significant delays and inconvenience for our customers, but also has direct financial consequences for TfL in deterring and dealing with the effects of the vandalism.

The use of these exceptions is subject to an assessment of the public interest in relation to the disclosure of the information concerned. We recognise the need for openness and transparency, and in particular where this relates to the maintenance of public assets and the effective expenditure of public funds. In this case, it may also be of interest in enabling the general public to understand the extent of this problem on TfL’s road network. However, we do not consider that there are any other public interest factors in favour of the disclosure of this information, which otherwise is only likely to be of interest to those who follow and/or commit vandalism. On the other hand, there is a very strong public interest in preventing further crime, in protecting the health and safety of individuals, and in protecting the commercial interests of TfL as a public authority.
Therefore, in this instance we feel that the balance lies in favour of withholding the information to ensure that we are able to minimise the number of potential incidents of vandalism incidents which could have considerable implications for law enforcement, public safety, and TfL expenditure.

Please see the attached information sheet for details of your right to appeal.

Yours sincerely

Gemma Jacob
Senior FOI Case Officer
FOI Case Management Team
General Counsel
Transport for London

[email protected]

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