TAKARAZUKA, Hyogo Prefecture--The city decided on Nov. 9 to require police to obtain a court warrant before it provides surveillance camera footage for investigations conducted under the nation's controversial anti-conspiracy law.

Without a court warrant, it will refuse to provide the footage for probes under the new law, which will punish offenders even in the planning stages of a crime, according to an agreement between the city and the Hyogo prefectural police Takarazuka Police Station.

To prevent crimes and improve public safety, the city has kicked off a plan to install up to 280 security cameras in the city over the three years from this fiscal year.

Currently, 30 surveillance cameras installed in August are already operating in areas around 12 train stations in the city.

A guideline on surveillance camera footage, which was compiled by the city before concluding the agreement with police, states that the city can provide security camera footage only for “criminal investigations,” “missing persons searches” and “traffic accident investigations.”

It also requires police to submit an inquiry form of relevant facts on investigations based on the Criminal Procedure Law. In addition, the city obliges police to write the charge and whether a crime has occurred as well as to submit a surveillance camera footage request-cum-commitment form, which makes police promise not to use the provided footage for an unintended purpose.

The guidelines also state that the persons responsible for managing surveillance camera footage must not provide it for investigations under the anti-conspiracy law coupled with other prohibited items.

This “rule, however, does not apply when footage is requested based on a (court) warrant,” according to the guidelines.

Kazuo Okawa, a lawyer who specializes in issues on surveillance cameras and privacy, warns that the anti-conspiracy law is highly likely to violate freedom of thought and expression, which are guaranteed by the Constitution.

“We can say that the city took a step forward toward defending human rights by stating in its guidelines that it requires investigating authorities to submit court warrants to the city in requesting security camera footage,” said Okawa who belongs to the Osaka Bar Association.

“However, I have doubts that the courts have actually fulfilled a function to check investigating authorities and prevent them from abusing the rights of suspects in view of the current way courts issue warrants,” he continued. “I truly hope that the courts will cautiously decide to issue warrants in anti-conspiracy investigations.”