There’s been quite a lot in the press recently about local authorities turning off their CCTV schemes. Westminster Council is turning off their scheme as they can’t afford to run it and it’s the same in Newbury and Havant.
Austerity measures continue to bite hard and councils are making tough decisions about how they spend their money. A recent report by Big Brother Watch has shown a 46.6% decrease on funding spent on the installation, maintaining and monitoring of CCTV by local authorities since 2012 – from £515m to approximately £277m – they are big figures. CCTV is not a statutory service that councils have to provide so for some it’s a service that they no longer will.
In the case of Westminster they’ve questioned the value of CCTV, saying it doesn’t deter crime, yet are happy for other organisations to step in and pay for it – the mayor, the police, the Home Office. If CCTV systems are of limited effect then they should be removed. If they are valuable then the council should explain their continued use to the public to justify the money spent on the service.
Newbury and Westminster are looking at options to keep the systems up and running – working with Business Improvement Districts and so on. Whilst money is tight I’ve started to see innovative partnerships emerge to help preserve the CCTV schemes that keep towns and cities safe. In Cumbria the Police and Crime Commissioner stepped in to fund five town centre schemes so they now feed into one control room at the police Headquarters. It makes it much more efficient for the police retrieve CCTV footage from these town schemes as the control is being operated from one of their buildings – they’ve recently been awarded my third party certification mark.
It’s not just public sector organisations that are working together – businesses are stepping up too. In Rugby the Business Improvement District (Rugby First) has taken over the running of the town centre scheme. It’s funded by business, the local authority and the police. They too have my certification mark.
Where CCTV has been switched off arguments have been made that it doesn’t deter crime and that is true there is little evidence to show that it does. However, CCTV is a valuable tool in the resolution of crime and helping to bring the perpetrators of crime to justice – you just have to look at the role it played in identifying looters and criminals following the riots in 2011 to see that.
So, if town centre CCTV schemes play a crucial role in protecting our towns and cities in an age of austerity how can organisations work in partnership to ensure they do just that?