Closed Circuit TV (CCTV) cameras are a feature of most towns and cities in Britain today, writes Labour Leader of Ipswich Borough Council, David Ellesmere.
Their main aims are both to deter crime and anti-social behaviour and to help identify offenders so they can be prosecuted.
For most people they are a reassuring presence and make us feel safer.
They are not a panacea though.
They do not deter all crime. If a camera is facing the wrong way it may not pick up a crime committed right next to it. Cameras may just displace anti-social behaviour somewhere else.
Early cameras were not high resolution and didn’t work well at night so, even though they may have captured a crime, they may not have done so in enough detail to identify the perpetrator.
They are not cheap to run either. Ipswich Borough Council’s CCTV system costs around £600,000 a year to run.
A large part of this cost is for staff who monitor the cameras all day, every day. They are essential to get the most out of the system. They can spot an incident immediately and call the relevant emergency services, rather than just recording what happened.
Although this provides invaluable help for other emergency services, and especially the police, they often do not pay a penny towards its operation – it is usually entirely funded by councils.
This has led to councils in other areas, for example Conservative-controlled Westminster City Council, to switch off all their cameras to save costs.
That is not something that Ipswich Borough Council would consider. Although the system is expensive we are not prepared to gamble with the public’s safety like this.
In fact, we are investing £500,000 to upgrade all our cameras and install a new wireless transmission network.
The new cameras will be more reliable, provide more coverage and better pictures. The wireless network will be much cheaper to run than the current system and will make it easier to install cameras at new locations.
Although we all primarily rely on the police to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour, the Borough’s CCTV system is a vital tool and this investment shows we are committed to playing our part in helping to keep Ipswich safe.