I thought it might be useful to clear up any misunderstandings on my view on the current CCTV situation or lack of it.
During the last 3 years of my sitting on Rayleigh Town Council, I have been acutely aware of problems with the CCTV system that they had – poor image quality, camera locations etc The CCTV system was subject to an operational review by an external company. This is so that we ensure as a Council, that it is justified – contrary to public belief, we can’t just slap up cameras any place we fancy!
A working group was set up on the Town Council, with a number of town councillors and I was ‘drafted’ in following a few meetings as they required some technical expertise. At the point, they had already decided on camera numbers and locations. I don’t think there was anything particularly scientific about it if I remember. At this point we had several CCTV companies come in to quote for the already specified system. As a technical infrastructure analyst, I had concerns over what I thought was a fragmented system which lent itself to lots of points of failure and data security issues. I needed to ‘design’ a new system that was centralised and maintained data security.
I won’t go into the technical aspects of the new system only to say that it sent all the data back to the Rayleigh Town Council offices via a secure encrypted point to point link. I really don’t make this stuff up as this is my day job… however this link relied on a relay from a high point which was proposed as Barclays Bank. After a protracted communication with Barclays, they said it would cost a few thousand pounds…
I then discover in a meeting, that the environment committee had decided that the whole idea be shelved and that only cameras would be retained that protected the Town Councils assets. Yes, admittedly, there were questions over GDPR but these could’ve been overcome quite easily given a little research and technical know-how.
I subsequentially published that CCTV had been removed from Rayleigh as there was a false sense of security being given to the residents and we had to remove the signage and cameras. There have been comments why didn’t you leave them in place as dummies, but we weren’t allowed to.
Fast forward to recent times with the part-time private security patrols. I agreed to a trial period in the run-up to Christmas. Following the trial and a review of the logs, I personally do not feel they add any value to the security of our residents. One log showed they were helping someone to their car with their shopping – my view is if you want a concierge service you better start shopping at Harrods where the taxpayer isn’t paying for it!
An idea was put forward by a Town Councillor to set up a Community Safety Panel and given his involvement and numerous discussion with him I put myself forward for it.
The first meeting did descend into chaos and it’s clear the direction that the CSP was intended to move in, isn’t going to happen. There simply isn’t the knowledge in the room. That is not intended as an insult to the current members but we should know our limitations.
Some members of the public are transfixed on having CCTV reinstalled in Rayleigh and perhaps it might be perceived as being a ‘silver bullet’ to the crime problem – but there are always buts!
I have begun to research the effectiveness of CCTV and look at the types of crime in Rayleigh. I don’t believe that we need to ‘double up’ on work with the District Council or that CCTV is a priority over other responsibilities that the District Council are responsible for such as the housing register. I for one am not prepared to tell the 700+ residents on the housing list they’ll have to wait a little longer cause we’ve blown a chunk of money on CCTV. These people are not sitting pretty, they are on the list for a reason! I can go on to say that I have seen a technical project run at the district council which resulted in a massive overspend and many failures along the way too.
The timescales for rolling out a district-wide CCTV would be huge. A town council could deliver a dynamic system, to deter crime in ‘hot spots’ and they could do this in a relatively short time frame. It is simply not caught up in as much red tape and there is a closer connection between the decision-makers (Councillors) and the community
I remain open-minded to the implementation of a good CCTV system within our town, so long as it going to be an effective tool for the prevention of crime and disorder, any installation should be proportional to the problem and have clearly defined goals and aims. Evidence-based decision making should be part of this process, with the wealth of statistics we can analyse our own CCTV success in Rayleigh before and after it was removed.
I include these links for your own reading – so before you chastise me for my views I would ask that you take a moment to view these official reports from the College of Policing and also the Home Office.
Where do we go from here?
My personal view is that it would be more constructive for our MP to lobby government for additional funding for our police force and put real boots on the ground. CCTV evidence is only any good if you’ve got the resource to use that evidence. We have recently heard at the community meeting with the police, how overstretched they are. CCTV analysis is resource-intensive and the police have to prioritise their resourcing.
There really is little merit in him saying he supports CCTV when he has no control or influence over local authority matters. We’ve been there and got the t-shirt. This issue should not be used to gain popular support from residents, I for one, will not lead anyone ‘up the garden path’ on this issue. This is not a political point-scoring exercise but a reasoned argument for how at different levels of government we can be most effective for our residents.
I will continue to work within Rayleigh Town Council to address the issues which are within our remit looking for the best outcome for residents.