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Tale of two towns

In west Cornwall, eight towns are having their public space CCTV monitored by Cornwall Fire Service.

The Town Council CCTV project is the idea of Hayle Town Council. After installing cameras, the town approached others to see if they were interested in joining. The eight – Camborne, Hayle, Helston, Penzance, Redruth, Truro, Penryn and Falmouth – have a total of 80 cameras in operation.

Funded by the town councils via council tax, a contract – believed to be the first of its kind in the UK – was awarded to Cornwall Fire, Rescue and Community Safety Service (CFRCS). The 360 degree camera footage is recorded and monitored by staff based in the service’s Critical Control Centre in Tolvaddon. A link is also being provided to the Emergency Management Centre at County Hall in Truro so the images can be accessed in emergency situations such as flooding and major fires.

As staff from the Critical Control Centre have links to the police and ambulance services, they can also summon 999 help.

A stakeholders group has been set up to oversee and manage the project to see that the workload is shared among the eight councils and partners. The group, of elected councillors, and town council clerks, with representatives from the Fire and Rescue service and Devon and Cornwall Police, will be chaired by a councillor from a different council each year.

This year’s chair has been Rowenna Brock, from Falmouth. She said: “We know that residents in these towns recognised that CCTV was an effective tool in tackling crime and anti social behaviour and wanted it to continue to be used. Many people have told us that the use of CCTV makes them feel safer in their communities.

“I am delighted we have been able to achieve this by working with the police and the fire and rescue service and I am looking forward to building on the strong partnership which has been developed.

“I would like to pay tribute to everyone who has been involved in this ground breaking project which has been nationally praised as ‘a really good model for devolution’ and demonstrates how we are ‘Working Together to make Cornwall Safer.”

Cornwall Fire, Rescue and Community Safety Service’s Area Manager Kevin Thomas called the partnership an excellent example of localism and devolution. “We are very happy to be contributing to the creation and maintenance of safer communities.”

Supt Sara Crane, Devon and Cornwall Police Commander for West Cornwall, praised the use of CCTV, helping to support the police in dealing more quickly with anti-social behaviour. She said: “We have already seen positive results from the cameras which have already been installed in a number of towns.”

Meanwhile, North Devon Council’s CCTV service is rationalising. The Barnstaple-based council is proposing the CCTV control room will be manned during the hours of most need (Monday to Thursday from 9am to midnight, Friday to Sunday from 9am to 5am). CCTV staff will continue to operate the Barnstaple Against Retail Crime (BARC) and Barnstaple Against Night-time Disorder (BAND) schemes

North Devon Council leader, Councillor Des Brailey, says: “The CCTV service is highly valued and is an essential tool in the detection and prevention of crime. However, it is an expensive service and we need to make sure our resources are directed at the areas of most need.

“We have been in discussions with the Devon and Cornwall PCC and they have made it clear how important CCTV is to their service. Executive will consider the report in the new year and, if approved, the changes will come into effect in April 2017.”

Background

North Devon Council has nearly 50 CCTV public space cameras in Barnstaple and Ilfracombe; its 24-7 control room is in Barnstaple, monitoring 117 cameras. The service costs about £200,000 a year, and the council in 2016 questioned whether it can carry on affording it, given a reduced £750,000 from central Government for the year 2016-17 and the prospect of deeper cuts.

In a December report to councillors, the council’s head of environmental health and housing, Jeremy Mann pointed to the surveillance camera code of practice, and the need for North Devon like any local government body to be sure of the community need for CCTV, so as to comply with the code. Hence the report proposed rationalising cameras, keeping them for the two towns’ high streets and likewise to concentrate on preventing and detecting ‘incidents associated with harm’ (not only to people; but to council buildings for instance) and safeguarding children – hence cameras for public parks.

At Ilfracombe Harbour, the harbour master has a separate CCTV system. The report was not simply proposing cuts; it identified the council’s property assets, such as the Pannier Market, pictured, and bus station in Barnstaple as priorities for CCTV, for instance to guard against vandalism and anti-social behaviour. While CCTV recording will remain 24-7, the control room will not be staffed 24-hours any more, by cutting out monitoring in the small hours. The Ilfracombe Harbour CCTV will be linked to the Barnstaple control room. Control room records from 2009 onwards, circulated to councillors, showed that more incoming calls came from the Barnstaple shop and pub radios than police radio (the control room has one) or telephones. The largest single category of incident was ‘anti-social behaviour’; and also significant was the even more catch-all ‘miscellaneous’. Non-crime was also important, such as missing persons and ‘concern for welfare’. In a separate December report, Jeremy Mann and CCTV manager Hannah Harrington (also in charge of the Pannier Market and Barnstaple town centre), said the control room’s relations with local police were excellent, although police do not pay towards the service.

They reported that staff was the largest single area of spending – 59 per cent. The BT fibre optic cabling for transmission of images from the 17 Barnstaple town centre cameras was expensive, and there was potential to save money by an upgrade to IP wireless. The CCTV service was highly valued by many: “It has also become an essential support service to many areas of the council’s business.” However, some of the equipment (dating from central Government grant days around the millennium) was ageing.

The report also called for more commercialising of the council’s CCTV service, and proposed to ‘withdraw from any existing contracts which are not financially beneficial to the council’, and then to look at what opportunities the council had to ‘commercialise’ the public space CCTV service, to bring in money. Mr Mann’s report, presented to councillors in March 2016, went out to public consultation in April and May 2016.


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