Town hall bosses today called for suggestions in how reinstate Blackpool’s manned 24-hour CCTV system.
Until April last year, the town’s camera system was manned around the clock at weekends, allowing police to react quickly to incidents of violence or disorder.
But tough Government cuts meant council bosses had to axe 24 hour staff – a move campaigners warned would put public safety at greater risk.
Now, following a number of violent incidents in the town centre in recent weeks, council bosses are appealing for ideas as to how it could be brought back.
It comes after The Gazette reported yesterday how Mike Rossall, 18, was viciously beaten outside a town centre takeaway, leaving him with horrific injuries.
The Gazette has backed police appeals to track down the thug, following the incident outside a Dickson Road eaterie shortly before 4am on August 16.
Speaking about the attack Coun Gillian Campbell, Blackpool Council’s cabinet member for public safety and enforcement, said: “We are saddened to hear about this assault on this young man and hope he will make a full and fast recovery.”
She added: “We are constantly looking at ways of improving town centre security.
“As we announced some months ago, we set up a night-time economy working group to try to improve the town centre in the evening.
“This group has a sub-committee which is specifically charged with dealing with public safety and is studying the issues to bring about changes in the long-term that will make a real difference.
“CCTV can be a very helpful tool in solving crimes and we do have widespread 24/7 CCTV coverage in the town centre. As people are well aware we used to have a staffed 24/7 CCTV service during the busy weekend periods which was a useful asset.
“However, the reality of the financial challenges we face at the present time as a result of the most severe Government cuts anywhere in the country, mean this is not currently possible.
“As with any issue like this, if any public bodies or groups have suggestions on how we could improve public safety or re-instate a staffed 24/7 service we would be happy to discuss them.”
Blackpool’s CCTV camera system, launched in 2001, has cost in the region of £1.5m to set up, and in 2009 it was costing £600,000 a year to operate.
Cameras were monitored round-the-clock seven days a week until the first cuts were made in 2011, and the number of CCTV operators was reduced from 11 to three as part of a £908,000 package of cuts covering parking and CCTV. Monitoring was reduced to Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and then scrapped altogether.
The call comes at a time when violent crime in Blackpool has increased, according to latest figures. Official police findings show violence incidents increased by 2.7 per cent to 3,947 last year.
Craig Southall, of Blackpool’s Pub Watch scheme, backed the plea, saying CCTV is vital in keeping visitors to the town centre safe and ensuring perpetrators of violence are caught.
He added: “Attacks like the one on Mr Rossall just further landlords’ argument for the town centre CCTV to be on and monitored.”