Police are being challenged to contribute towards the cost of CCTV as Central Beds Council is faced with an hefty bill of around £640,000 to replace its ageing analogue system.
Central Beds councillors met on Thursday and backed plans for a digital upgrade of the near-obsolete equipment for wireless HD cameras to improve image quality and reduce signal transmission costs.
The CCTV system has been introduced in stages since 1995, but the last significant investment was pre-2009, the year when Central Beds Council was formed.
But members questioned why the council should be stumping up all the finance, when Beds Police benefited so greatly from its presence.
David McVicar, chairman of the sustainable communities overview & scrutiny committee, said: “We do not have to provide CCTV. It is not mandatory, so we could stop it. I don’t think we would be very popular if we did.
“It does a fairly good job, but on the other hand everyone it does a good job for are those who don’t put their hands in their pockets.
“We help the police, we get a lot of arrests, we get a lot of results from that. But they say ‘It’s a great system, we love it, it helps us greatly, but we’re not going to pay for it. Why should we, it’s your job?’.”
Councillor Robert Morris added: “I don’t like the fact that we are basically, in another way, subsidising the police yet again because the police are not getting the rightful funding that they should be.”
Councillor Mark Versallion asked: “What should, and what are we inviting our partners to contribute to this capability which everyone benefits from?
“There is a grey area about the police and other services, town councils, their obligations moral or otherwise.
“When you pay for something you value it, maybe getting other organisations to contribute as well as us.”
Leighton’s CBC and town councillor Gordon Perham pointed out that the towncouncil paid Beds Police £50,000 annually for Operation Dodford’s extra patrols.
He added that the town council had also paid for camera in Astral Park and redeployable cameras elsewhere in the town.
“I am slightly apprehensive that we will be policing ourselves because we have now got 20 people walking the streets as well on Street Watch. We have 22 people doing Speed Watch and another 20 people doing Neighbourhood Watch.”
He said the cameras were valued but queried the police response time to incidents.
“There is less and less reaction from the cameras. We have quite a lot of problems in our library. We have got people going in there and causing all sorts of trouble and by the time the police get there it’s too late.”
Following the meeting, Cllr Perham told the LBO that he was generally in support of CCTV. He said: “It can also be a deterrent for some anti-social behaviour problems but if we just replace police with cameras we are reducing the interaction /partnership with the police and the community.
“The hole in the response to minor crimes that the public suffer cannot be filled by more cameras . The police need to be out there pro active in stopping some of the incidents that are making the community fed up and feel they are not being taken seriously.
“The library is plagued constantly with minor incidents of disorder which is blighting the law abiding majority use of this great facility.
“I worry that unless minor crimes and general yobbish behaviour is not clamped down upon quality of life for older residents will become greatly reduced.”
A Central Bedfordshire Council spokesperson said: “The Anti-Social Behaviour and Statutory Nuisance Team are assisting the libraries within Central Bedfordshire regarding complaints of Anti-Social Behaviour and will provide information to the library staff on how to deal with any future incidents.”
A spokesman for Beds Police Commissioner Kathyrn Holloway has for far not commented.