The other day I attended an inquiry day set-up by Cornwall Council. This was on the cost and effectiveness of CCTV in Cornwall. To be honest, I have got accustomed to seeing these cameras in various locations around our towns. I thought overall they are a good thing if they reduce crime and make people feel more safe. I am not one of those who believes its a infringement on our civil liberties being watched by these cameras.
In Cornwall there are 4 CCTV systems covering 14 towns with 161 cameras in total. Two of the systems are operated in-house with the other two are outsourced. The four systems are run and controlled at Truro, Liskeard (in house) and Hayle and Newquay (outsourced).
Currently these systems cost £984,000 to run and operate. This is broken down by the following. Maintenance £147,000, Monitoring £600,000, Transmission £163,000, Other £74,000 .
This is funded via £833,000 by Cornwall Council, £151,000 by various Town Councils. The most surprising aspect of this is that the Police make no financial contribution to the running cost except that they allow two of the systems to use the Police Stations rent free.
Now to the point of the Police funding, or lack of it. This raised everyone’s eyebrows to say the least. Surely the main beneficiaries to this system are the police. In fact, an independent report by Deloittee Consulting said that the use of CCTV equated to having another 29 Officers on the beat. The answer from the Police representative said we had no statutory duties to fund CCTV. A question later to the consultant about do the Police fund CCTV schemes in other Authorities was answered yes, either fully, partly or as in Cornwall’s case, not at all.
As for why we are having the inquiry on CCTV is party due to the cost, including the value of money to Cornwall Council. There is also a claim from various investigations that there is limited, if any, evidence of public realm CCTV actually reducing crime based on national evidence. Now this is not to say it does not, or it can be used to prevent crime as in stopping incidents escalating because it’s been caught early and dealt with. Not to mention that it gives the public a peace of mind.
We are also at a point that capital investment is required to replace ageing equipment estimated at £500k plus £100k per annum. Could this and the running costs more effectively used funding other crime prevention and reduction schemes? What must also be looked at is if the Police and/or other parties will agree to fund revenue and capital costs. If not, one of the proposals on the table is to simply flick the switch to off.
What is going to happen now is various avenues and questions raised at this first day will be brought back to be thrashed out before the findings and recommendations are presented to the OSC, who will then report to Cabinet for a final decision.
I got the feeling from the Police that they were unhappy/unlikely to agree to fund CCTV fully or partly. The question is, can the Council afford to pay for this service?