Radio Sandwell News

Surveillance commissioner warns councils 'turning off CCTV'

2015-05-23 09:20:59

cctv cameraThe UK has one of the largest number of CCTV cameras in the world

Councils in England and Wales are turning off CCTV cameras in an attempt to cut costs, a surveillance watchdog has warned.

Tony Porter, the surveillance camera commissioner, said switching off cameras would mean the police would find it harder to detect crime.

He told the Independent the situation was a "concern" and blamed the government's austerity cuts.

He is due to present his findings to the government in the autumn.

Mr Porter, who is the commissioner for England and Wales, told the newspaper that councils could face greater scrutiny of their use of CCTV, including potential inspections and enforcement.

'Degrade the capacity'

He said: "There are an increasing number of examples where councils and employees are citing a lack of money as being the rationale to reduce the service or completely change its composition - and that does concern me.

"Because CCTV isn't a statutory function, it is something a lot of councils are looking at.

"Most people recognise the utility of CCTV for supporting law enforcement. To degrade the capacity may have an impact on police. It may well be that they will find it increasingly difficult to acquire the images that will help them investigate crimes.

"I do think public authorities should be held to greater account."

The UK has one of the largest number of CCTV cameras in the world. The British Security Industry Association (BSIA) estimates there are between 4-5.9 million cameras, with around one in 70 publicly owned.

Mr Porter has written to council chief executives to remind them of the law and code of practice.

In a speech to the CCTV User Group conference this week, he warned of misuse of cameras in some local authority areas.

He said: "I've seen councils in large towns like Blackpool and Derby stop monitoring their systems 24-7. My understanding is that this is not as the result of a review or public consultation but simply to save money.

"And as austerity measures continue to bite on public space CCTV will we see a deterioration of standards and training?"

Mr Porter was appointed surveillance camera commissioner in March 2014.


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