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Axe to fall on three-quarters of Carlisle’s CCTV cameras

Nobody will monitor Carlisle’s CCTV cameras from early next year – and 48 will be switched off for good from 2014.

Richard Rhodes photo
Richard Rhodes

Cameras will continue to record footage, which police can view if an incident takes place, but nobody will be watching the TV screens in the CCTV control room at the Civic Centre.

All but 15 of the of the current 63 cameras will be switched off when Carlisle City Council’s contract with BT comes to an end as surveillance screens are mothballed to save money.

That will leave only six cameras in the city centre plus nine in council car parks.

There will none at all in outlying areas such as Brampton and Longtown. The move has provoked an outcry from opposition Conservative councillors.

Richard Rhodes, Cumbria’s newly-elected police and crime commissioner, says it will make it harder to police the city. He is hoping to hold talks with council leader Joe Hendry.

Labour’s Elsie Martlew, the executive member responsible for CCTV, said cuts in government grant had left the council with no option. Reducing CCTV will save £180,000 a year.

She said: “This is a service the council has provided but isn’t legally required to. We are being put under the cosh financially by the Government. From 2010 to 2015 we have got to cut a third of our revenue budget.

“This [£180,000] is a significant part of our environment budget.

“Even though people may see the benefit of CCTV, it’s something that has to be looked at really hard.

“Allerdale have done this already because of financial pressures, as have Eden.”

Six part-time jobs go with the scrapping of live surveillance. One post is vacant. The other five are facing redundancy. They were told on Wednesday.

The council has also notified the police and the Pubwatch and Shopwatch schemes. A consultation ends on January 4.

The decision in principle has already been made although senior managers may still tweak the proposals. Although all cameras will stay in place until 2014, only the 15 to be kept long term will be maintained. If any of the others develop a fault, or are vandalised, they will not be repaired.

Conservative Mike Mitchelson oversaw the rollout of CCTV when he was council leader from 1999 until this May. He is calling for a rethink. He said: “We developed CCTV because we felt part of our role was to make people feel safe and secure. The current executive are moving this too quickly.

“They should rethink the proposal to engage properly with the public, the police and staff before pushing this through. It will have a severe impact on people feeling safe in their environment.”

Mr Rhodes also has concerns. One of the advantages of live monitoring of the cameras is that CCTV staff can spot incidents developing and alert the police.

The commissioner said: “I understand the council is under pressure to save money. There’s a perception from the police that it won’t make the process of policing Carlisle any easier.”

The council hopes that the police, or businesses, will pay to retain some of the cameras under threat.

Mr Rhodes is not ruling that out. He added: “I have financial constraints like anyone else. However, one of my priorities is to deal with anti-social behaviour.”

One of the cameras earmarked to go is at Five Road Ends in Currock. It was installed at a cost of £20,000 after 500 people signed a petition calling for it and led to a drop in complaints about anti-social behaviour, in particular incidents of violence and intimidation by teenage gangs.

Carlisle’s Conservative MP John Stevenson has called on the council to reconsider.

He is worried that “criminal activity may increase”.

That brought an angry response from Mrs Martlew.

She said: “I have seen John Stevenson’s comments. I would like to see our MP put pressure on the Government. If they want services to be maintained, they have to give us the wherewithal to do it.”

Have your say

Monitored CCTV cameras where the operators are linked to up to 100 door staff and shop security staff by radio and are linked to the police radio network are as good as a thousand community spirited citizens on the streets as they can help target resources and gather evidence.No one is interested in law abiding people going about their business.But everyone is interested in the thief/or assaulter who targets them personally or the shops that have to increase prices to cover the millions lost to shoplifting every year.Is that not serving the community ?

Posted by Malcolm Huddart on 20 December 2012 at 18:21

CCTV cameras do not prevent crime. They don't prevent a drunk hitting another drunk, or a drunk smashing a window. They don't prevent a druggie stealing from a shop to fund his/her next fix. They might id an offender and will show the time of the incident. Shops and night clubs have their own CCTV - all the councils CCTV does generally is show shoppers walking about doing their business on Scotch St and English St. Spend the money on something for the community.

Posted by RW on 19 December 2012 at 12:39

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