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Tuesday, 29 July 2014

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Police should stump up more cash for CCTV, says Carlisle councillor

A prominent politician says police should pay more towards CCTV cameras if they are proven as effective in tackling trouble.

Elsie Martlew photo
Elsie Martlew

Cumbria’s crime commissioner Richard Rhodes has ordered a top-level report into the cameras’ impact on curbing anti-social behaviour.

It’s a move welcomed by Elsie Martlew, the councillor responsible for overseeing the operations of the network covering Carlisle.

The city council has faced a backlash from some quarters after plans emerged for all but 15 of the current 63 cameras keeping watch over the district to be switched off, as the authority battles to make savings in the wake of Government spending cuts.

Others across north and west Cumbria have or will soon be switched off as surveillance screens are mothballed.

There are hopes that business or community groups will step in to save cameras covering some areas, but any intervention is unlikely to be enough to keep them all recording.

Mr Rhodes last week said he was asking Bernard Lawson, the county’s temporary chief constable, to produce a document about the use of the cameras.

And if they are proven as vital, Mrs Martlew believes police should be ploughing more of their own money into keeping them going.

She said: “I welcome this report. If, as I am constantly told, CCTV is of benefit to the police, this will come out.

“If that’s the case, I feel the police should be looking to fund it in the districts.

“If the chief constable says it’s a good police tool, by that definition that should have more impact on the funding we get.”

Details about effectiveness report emerged as Mr Rhodes pledged to hand out £600,000 that could go towards CCTV funding as part of overall measures to tackle antisocial behaviour.

He says he will give £100,000 to each of the county’s six district councils – if they match this funding themselves.

Cuts proposed in Carlisle are poised to leave only six cameras in the city centre plus nine in council car parks.

Eden Council has switched off its cameras in Penrith, Appleby and Kirkby Stephen. Copeland has 20 cameras in Whitehaven, Egremont, Cleator Moor, Frizington and Millom.

It stopped live surveillance in 2011-12 and plans to turn them off this year.

Allerdale has CCTV in Workington, Maryport, Aspatria and Wigton.

They are part-funded through private investment until April but it is uncertain what will happen after that.

Mr Rhodes said the councils do not have to spend the money on CCTV if they have alternative ideas to tackle antisocial behaviour.

District councils do not have a legal obligation to provide CCTV.

Mrs Martlew said that ideally, the city council would like to come up with a plan that pleases everybody, including those who have raised concerns that the switch-offs could lead to crimes going unsolved.

She added: “The biggest factor in reassuring people about safety is to see more police on the beat.”

Mr Rhodes said he hoped the offer might help district councils if they approached businesses to ask them to contribute.

Speaking last week, he added: “There is an argument that police should pay for it. Well, this is the police and crime commissioner saying we should make a contribution.”

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