Safety fears over CCTV cuts

CCTV cameras are under threat
CCTV cameras are under threat
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BLACKPOOL’S CCTV cameras will go unmanned as part of devastating cuts.

The resort’s 139 crime-fighting cameras are currently monitored 24-hour-a-day, 365-days-a-year.

But Blackpool Council is now set to slash £908,000 from its parking, security and CCTV budget.

And town hall chiefs today revealed the cameras will no longer be manned round-the-clock – sparking fears for community safety.

Concerned town hall workers, who man the cameras, contacted The Gazette to voice deep concern at proposed cuts

They fear reducing coverage will make it more difficult to detect crimes, increase the amount of police time on cases and reduce safety in the town centre.

One concerned worker, who did not want to be named, told The Gazette: “The CCTV control room in Blackpool has been an integral tool in the fight against crime.

“CCTV offers public safety and peace of mind. It would be devastating to the town centre to lose public confidence in CCTV and safety.

“Running this service at a low level will have a devastating affect on the quality of footage as cameras will not be being maintained properly.”

Despite the cameras saving police time and helping with investigations Blackpool Council’s deputy leader, Coun Ian Fowler, said all areas of council spending were under the microscope.

The authority is attempting to make savings of £27m following the Government’s Spending Review. Up to 750 town hall posts could go.

Coun Fowler said: “We have to look at how we can streamline the service while still providing a good, relevant and safe service.

“We are not going to turn any of the cameras off because they do give people a feeling of security and we understand that. But they are not going to be monitored 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They will be manned at the times when we know there is activity.

“However, everything will still be recorded, and available for people to review at a later date.”

There are 139 cameras throughout the resort, accessible from the control room which was opened in 2001.

Operators can move and tilt the fully operational cameras to follow crimes as they happen. They can then contact police officers on the ground.

A number of serious and violent crimes in the town centre have been solved thanks to footage captured by the cameras and their operators.

Another town hall source told The Gazette: “Not only does the presence of an efficient operational CCTV capability prove effective in the fight against crime, it also assists in ensuring and maintaining the safety of the general public.

“It has proven effective in locating lost children and vulnerable adults and assisted the emergency services in locating persons lost and in difficulty in the sea and during other emergency situations.”

Eileen Ormand, Blackpool Town Centre’s Business Improvement District manager, said it was inevitable all areas of council work were being looking at to make efficiency savings.

She said: “I believe CCTV is a critical part of the security of the town centre, but there’s ways and means of making it smarter.

“Everything is being done to make it as practical as possible. Other towns are doing it – there’s no choice.”

The CCTV system’s maintenance budget could also be slashed as part of the cuts.

Blackpool Council will debate cuts to its parking, security and CCTV budget on Friday, as part of its wider budget discussions.

Lancashire Police said it would not comment on the issue until after the budget decision was made.