Concern CCTV to be axed in towns

Concern CCTV to be axed in towns

7 March 2018

CCTV cameras are to be axed from the district’s main towns by the end of March next year.

The decision to pull the plug on cameras installed a decade ago in Downpatrick, Newcastle and Ballynahinch has been taken by Newry, Mourne and Down Council which says the equipment has “reached the end of its useful life.”

In what is being seen as a bid to deflect criticism of the move, council officials say the removal of the cameras coincides with the continuing reduction in crime across the district.

Axing the CCTV system is being blamed on reduced PSNI funding and problems over recent years with breakdowns resulting in the cameras being out of action for long periods.

The local authority has confirmed it has been footing increasing repair bills and has revealed the cost of replacing the security camera system and updating the technology required to operate would be very expensive.

Council officials — who are asking the public and interested parties for their views on the decision — have also highlighted concerns about the effectiveness of the cameras, explaining there is no evidence currently available which can measure whether the footage they capture is contributing to criminal prosecutions.

The local authority says the difficulty in standardising CCTV monitoring and surveillance across the district, as well as budgetary constraints and the desire to provide ratepayers with maximum value for money, ate other factors which prompted their decision.

The organisation says the imminent introduction of stricter data protection legislation will likely increase both the financial and administrative burden of operating the camera system, as well as restricting its future use. 

Confirming the cameras will continue to operate during the new financial year, council officials say those which are faulty will be withdrawn over the coming months with the entire system shutdown by the end of March next year.

The local authority insists it remains committed to maintaining and enhancing public safety through its effective partnership working with the PSNI, the local Policing and Community Safety Partnership (PCSP) and its own community safety wardens.

PCSP chairman, Cllr Harry Harvey, said while he understood the arguments being advanced to axe CCTV coverage, he was not fully supportive of the move.

“I have no doubt people will be particularly concerned at this decision,” he said. Many view the presence of security cameras as an important tool to reduce crime in our town centres.

“The PSNI does not have the money to invest in the system and while crime is reducing, I believe the presence of security cameras acts as a deterrent to would-be criminals,” he continued.

“I will be very interested to hear what people have to say about this. However, what seems clear is that there is no going back on this decision for the variety of reasons outlined.”

PSNI Chief Inspector Joe McMinn said CCTV coverage in the district was not the sole responsibility of the police and that a number of agencies contributed to the financing of the service. 

“We recognise the value of CCTV and the reassurance it can bring to the community. However, it is impossible to ignore the challenges facing the wider police service in terms of budget and resources,” he said.

“Because of the significant levels of budget reduction, we are continually reviewing all areas of business to ensure our service is both sustainable and reflective of the needs of the communities in Newry, Mourne and Down.

Given the financial pressures facing the PSNI, we are currently not in a position to contribute towards the funding of public space CCTV. However, this will be kept under review.”

A consultation document can be downloaded from the local authority’s website, emailing or telephoning 0300 200 7830.

Comments can also be posted in writing to the council’s Downshire Civic Centre headquarters in Downpatrick. The closing date for completed questionnaires or comments is 5pm on Friday, June 1.