7 °CTue, 20

Axing CCTV decision overturned by council

Louise McDowell

Reporter:

Louise McDowell

The removal of CCTV from Kilkeel and Warrenpoint has been halted pending a detailed look at security and crime in the towns.

Back in March, Newry, Mourne and Down District Council controversially announced the withdrawal of town centre surveillance cameras from six towns across the district.

This move had been met with some criticism from local politicians with Mournes Independent Unionist Councillor Henry Reilly saying he believed “there is a value in them”.

At that time council defended the decision saying the cameras were being removed for a number of reasons including costs, a reduction in crime and due to the equipment reaching “the end of its useful life”.

However at a Strategy, Policy and Resources Committee meeting earlier this month, councillors voted to suspend that decision made nine months ago to phase the cameras out and instead voted for a “detailed scoping exercise” on the district’s security system provision.

Mournes Sinn Fein Councillor Sean Doran welcomed the decision.

“I would welcome anything that helps improve the area and improve relations with the traders. I know a lot of them had concerns about the CCTV being taken away as it is important for the PSNI to identify crime and its perpetrators in the area,” said Councillor Doran.

A report from the council’s Strategy and Policy Working Group (SPWG) was presented to the committee last week proposing to suspend the council’s plan to remove CCTV from Kilkeel, Newry, Warrenpoint, Downpatrick, Newcastle and Ballynahinch.

It said this was “to authorise officials to engage external technical assistance to complete a detailed scoping exercise, with key stakeholders, for the purposes of identifying future public space CCTV, and that a final report would be presented to the SPWG in due course”.

Depending the outcome of this report, council plans to continue with the current arrangements in relation to public space CCTV including essential maintenance.

The council had previously said “the financial and administrative burden of operating CCTV” was likely to increase over the next few years and that was one of the reasons why they were going to remove the cameras.

“The equipment, which was installed 10 years ago, has in recent years been experiencing a high incidence of faults, resulting in long periods of time where the CCTV cameras are not in operation, as well as increasing repair costs,” a council spokesman said.

“It has also been estimated that the costs to replace the equipment and update the supporting technology would also be very high.

“There are also concerns with the effectiveness of the cameras as there is no evidence currently available which can measure whether CCTV footage is contributing to criminal prosecutions.

“Other reasons such as the difficulty in standardising CCTV monitoring and surveillance across the district, as well as budgetary constraints and the desire to provide ratepayers with maximum value for money; have prompted the decision to cease town-centre CCTV,” the council previously said.

While this decision has been endorsed by the committee, it will have to go before the full council members for approval next week.

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