CCTV and the costs

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?

3 comments

  • Anonymous

    Switch it off and turn it back on in five years time when there is more money available.

  • Stephen Richardson

    Do cameras actually give people 'peace of mind'.

    My experience of cctv is that the criminals know that it is there and take precautions to make it nugatory. Professional criminals are in and out before any monitoring can raise an effective preventitive response and the quality of the images is usually not good enough to be used as evidence.

    Opportunist criminals aren't bothered about cctv – they're just intent on engaging in whatever activity they are about to be involved in.

    Basically if someone wants to break the law then, more often than not, they will take care to circumvent any effectiveness of cctv or they simply won't care anyway.

  • Paul

    I do a lot of work for the police in including looking at corrupt cctv systems (had one in this morning). In my experience they provide little deterrent and the quality, especially at night, is such that it is rare to get a prosecution. Perhaps some statistics should be obtained from Devon and Cornwall police as to how many successful prosecutions have been brought solely from CCTV evidence, or rather that would have failed without CCTV. If they don't have the figures then to my mind this is good enough reason to turn them off.

    While I am not paranoid about privacy I do believe that nationally this is getting out of hand, echos of 1984, and in a free society there really should be no or little need for this many cameras.

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