COUNCILS have slashed spending on their CCTV systems over the past three years – with Andover’s state-of-the-art cameras remaining largely unmonitored, a report has found.

A document published by civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch reveals that Test Valley Borough Council invested £77,077 on installing the 16 cameras in the borough in September 2012, but since then no-one has actively monitored them live.

Ten years on from the UK being defined as the “most watched nation on earth” the report , called Are They Still Watching?, reveals that between 2012 and 2015 local authorities reduced the number of CCTV cameras by 12.5 per cent and reduced spending on CCTV by 46.6 per cent.

However neighbouring council Basingstoke and Deane has a total of 72 CCTV cameras.

Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council spent a total of £234,390.54 on cameras from 2012 to 2015, bucking the national trend.

Dave Stanbridge, owner of Tip Top balloons in the town centre, whose business has been affected by vandals and burglars, said: “They used to be manned in the town centre, but for whatever reason they – the people who monitor them – were taken away.

“Since the introduction of the five pence charges for carrier bags shop-lifting has gone up 30 per cent, because it’s easy to fill up these bags they’re carrying around.

“A large number of the town centre shops have their own CCTV, but it’s easier to track people on the town centre cameras.”

He added that live monitoring would generate an element of safety and detect criminal behaviour outside of business trading hours and in the evenings.

A TVBC spokesman said that prior to 2012, the CCTV system in the town could only be accessed in the Chantry Centre control room, and that if the police needed to access the footage they had to go to the room.

The spokesman added that the digital cameras installed in the town centre in 2012 not only record high quality images 24/7, but the live feed can be accessed remotely by the police at any time.

The cameras feature full pan, tilt and zoom functions giving picture quality similar to television, replacing the analogue equipment.

‘Gathering evidence’ TVBC corporate portfolio holder Councillor Phil North said: “The council installed new CCTV cameras in Andover and Romsey town centres in 2012.

“These state of the art digital cameras were an upgrade from the analogue cameras that had reached the end of their life.

“We, along with the police, have access to the images, and the enhanced picture quality ensures that they can be used to assist in gathering any evidence required in the detection and prevention of crime.”

A spokesman for Hampshire Constabulary said that it is not the police force’s responsibility to monitor the cameras which, he said, are usually monitored live by a community safety partnership who will alert the police.

However, he added that they can review CCTV after an incident has occurred, assuming the camera is facing the incident, or can monitor a live incident in progress once they are aware of it through the remote access.

  •  What do you think?

Should Andover have more or fewer cameras?

Should they be actively monitored, and if so who’s job is it – council or police?

We’d love to hear your views.

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