Westminster CCTV to be switched back on across after eight month dispute
Funding row between council and police resolved
23 June, 2017 — By Alina Polianskaya
New set-up will not be monitored 24/7
CCTV cameras are expected to be switched on again across Westminster over the coming months.
At a meeting with councillors and police, it was confirmed that plans to bring 59 CCTV cam- eras back into action had “gained real momentum”.
The cameras, which will mainly be used for large-scale events, will be operated by the police. Westminster’s 75 CCTV cameras were taken out of action last autumn in a controversial move the council claimed would save around £1million.
Critics had warned removing the cameras could lead to an increase in crime and feared the consequences of no cameras in the case of any major incident.
At a scrutiny meeting in the Strand, the council’s temporary office space, Met Borough Commander Chief Superintendent Peter Ayling said: “In the coming months … we will see a CCTV network come online. The first stage is getting the 59 cameras online.”
However, he added that the cameras “will not be monitored 24/7”.
It is understood that the council is planning to provide a one-off payment to get the cameras on but after that it would be up to the police to maintain them.
Long-term plans included working with others to tap into the wider network of cameras that already exists around the borough.
After the meeting, Cllr Glenys Roberts said: “It makes no sense that the police are without resources in the current climate and that we are expecting them to per- form miracles while the council spends taxpayers’ money on irrelevant bread and circus pursuits. I saw how demoralised the police were at our recent public meeting in Soho.
“We need to help them all we can and the return of CCTV is definitely a start. Since we have been without it we have seen a horrendous rise in drug crime for a start.”
Labour councillor Barrie Taylor, who was at the scrutiny meeting, said CCTV “has some value, but it is limited,” adding that “physical presence of the police is as good a deterrent”.
West End ward Cllr Jonathan Glanz said: “I think 59 clear digital cameras could be more effective than what we had before, which didn’t work very well. The technology has moved on. It allows it to not be monitored full time. The tech can detect certain activity which alerts people to monitor them.”
He said that while there had been an increase in drug crime and anti-social behaviour recently in Soho, he could not say “with any degree of certainty” whether there was a causal link with cameras being removed – but that their return was “welcomed”.