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A defence of CCTV from Gavin Barwell

Over on CentreRight Alex Deane has written against CCTV.

Barwell-new In the comments thread Gavin Barwell, a Conservative Cabinet member on Croydon Council and our PPC for Croydon Central, has written a defence of CCTV. I thought it deserved a bit more prominence:

"I am responsible for community safety in Croydon, London's largest borough. Whilst Alex is right to draw attention to instances where cameras are turned off, images are not recorded or are of poor quality or CCTV is relied on as the sole means of crime prevention and detection, he is wrong to imply that CCTV doesn't help deter or detect crime.

In Croydon, we have a network of about 70 cameras in our town centre and some of our district centres plus some mobile cameras that we can move to areas of the borough where there is a specific problem at a particular point in time to avoid the need to have a larger network of permanent cameras. All the cameras are managed from a control room which is staffed 24 hours a day. They can be rotated and can zoom in on a particular area. The images are recorded so that they can be accessed by the police. In the month of November alone, footage from our cameras led to 26 arrests. I don't know what practical experience Alex has of policing or crime prevention policy but if he would like to come and meet our local police they will tell him that the best approach is a mix of cameras monitored 24 hours a day and uniformed officers on the streets - as soon as an incident occurs, the control room can alert the officers in the area and they can be on the spot in seconds. Unless Alex wants to increase spending on the police massively (personally I don't want to pay higher Council Tax) we are never going to have enough police on the streets for uniformed officers on their own to be the solution.

Finally, in my experience CCTV is popular with local residents. I am constantly petitioned for additional cameras. Of course there are privacy concerns and it is a question of striking a sensible balance - one of the reasons we recently invested in mobile cameras rather than extending our permanent network. Sadly, Alex's post doesn't do that."

I know Gavin is an instinctive civil libertarian - opposing, for example, ID cards and Labour's pre-charge detention plans. On CCTV I think he makes a compelling case for a party that must keep fighting crime at the top of its priority list.

Tim Montgomerie


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