Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Penzance Town Council Meeting Part 2

Penzance CCTV

This was the other item that raised passions last night, and a right good old ding-dong it was.

A bit of background, at the moment the CCTV in Penzance is not active and has not been for a little while, various reasons for this, cost of an upgrade, no monitoring contract in place, move from district to County.

A group of West Cornwall town councils (St Ives, Hayle, Camborne, Helston & Redruth) have now got together to form a new partnership, with County paying for the upgrade. The question is does Penzance wish to join this group.

This has been discussed in committee over the past few months with various questions being asked regarding cost, contracts and so on and meetings held with the other towns.

The item came to the General Purposes Committee, of which I’m chairman, for a final time in this cycle of meetings.

Now I should state at this point that I’m not a fan of CCTV, I question it’s usefulness as a crime prevention measure, I have issues over right to privacy, displacement of crime, that it can lead to lazy policing i.e. less on the beat as we have CCTV, cost, an over reliance on CCTV etc.

At the General Purposes Committee, questions where again raised and a recommendation passed that, following receipt of the information requested, consideration of the issue be deferred to the next Full Town Council meeting.

There where five questions to which we had asked for further information, two where a bit technical the other three where:

  1. Information regarding the number of recorded crimes in the period that the cameras where not in operation compared to the previous year.
  2. An assurance that CCTV footage was not sold or used for television purposes.
  3. Availability of police resources to follow up on reported incidents covered by CCTV.

The debate starts, and first to his feet is yours truly, starting with the replies given to the above questions.

  1. There was no answer, this is the norm, I have never been able to establish any real data for CCTV’s effectiveness, not even in the limited scope of this question.
  2. Cornwall Council will remain the data owners and controllers. All data will be subject to the guidelines in the Code of Practice and CCTV Operations manual. This covers the use of data and restricts its use for specific purposes – these do not include media use.
    I’m not sure what this answer means, restricts its use so can’t be used in the media or does not cover the use of the data by the media. Our town clerk was not sure either when he received it, so he asked for further information and got a lot of legal jargon for his trouble, from this it would appear that Cornwall Council can very possibly sell the data to a TV company. Well the argument goes do nothing wrong and you have nothing to fear. Consider this, lady in Market Jew Street falls through railings on the Terrace, shopping goes rolling down the street, great fun, sold to TV station so all can join in the fun. But in the background is yours truly, on the pavement having a laugh and a joke with Alec Robertson (Leader Cornwall Council), that could well be the end of my political career and/or marriage, and I’m sure it would not do a lot of good for his political career either.
  3. A Sergeant and other officers have received training and are able to interrogate recorded images for evidence and down load it.

    This was not what was being asked. Personal experience has shown me that if an incident takes place, in this case a broken shop window, that may have been caught on CCTV, unless it was seen at the time by the sole operator monitoring the CCTV from the six towns, then the police do not have the resources to review the CCTV images. So even if CCTV catch the offence, unless it is a major incident, which very few are, CCTV is worth nothing.     

Much debate now follows, one of our dual hatters (Penzance Town and Cornwall Council councillors) even managing to get comments about the comfort of the new children’s swing seats, into the debate, in a previous blog I did mention she can be a bit random, others speak in favour expressing the view that the cameras will increase safety in the town and if not safety, the fear of crime would be decreased, then reading my briefing notes I notice this paragraph:

Within the next two years, Cornwall Council would be providing a centrally monitored service from a new purpose built building.

   What for CCTV? No for everything Fire, Police, Ambulance is this true?

Now we come to the tears & laughter I promised in part one.
I’m on to my feet at the first sign from the Mayor that I can speak.
With tears rolling down my cheeks, not sure if they are of fear or laughter I should say, the very thought of Cornwall Council even contemplating a joint control room is just too much for me, I’m sure there are some very good officers at Cornwall Council, as I’m sure there are some very good civil servants, but the record of government bodies and IT is not good to say the least, as today’s news only confirms Cost of control room(strangely, I even mentioned £500 million, not a bad guess)  and demand that should Penzance enter into a contract for CCTV it ends before the centrally monitored service is introduced , with the town making no commitment to continue.

After all the above we come to the vote, does Penzance Town Council join the CCTV partnership, and this could be close, and it is 8 – 8.

This should now go to a casting vote of the Mayor, this is not a good place to be in, in two terms as Mayor I had to use my casting vote only once and you can never win.

Town Clerk to the rescue, there had been a second proposal earlier, to not join the CCTV partnership, as this was a direct negative to the first vote it would have fallen, if the first had been in favour, as it was not in favour it still stood to be voted on, second vote, not to join, vote  8 – 7 against 1 abstains (saves Mayor).

Penzance joins CCTV partnership.

What a night.

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