Preston cuts PCSOs, but not CCTV

Earlier this week we highlighted how local authorities have  spent more than £515m on CCTV in the past four years, and questioned whether or not that money would have been better spent on putting more police officers on the street.

The week has seen signficant media debate about the effectiveness of CCTV and whether in some communities it has become a substitute for police. We’ve called for greater transparency from local authorities on how many criminals their cameras convict, and for them to use more temporary cameras alongside improving policing and street security measures like street lighting – based on where crime is actually happening.

Sadly, in just a few days the question has been highlighted vividly by one council. Last night Preston Council passed a budget that reduced funding for PCSOs by 69%, while their budget for monitoring CCTV remained unchanged.

Preston’s Crime and Scrutiny committee had previously called for the Council to adopt a series of performance measures for their CCTV, which seem entirely reasonable.

(ii) Average number of incident reviews per CCTV camera
(iii) % of system down time per year
(iv) Average rectification time per minor system failure
(v) % of incidents handled proactively by CCTV Control Centre operatives
Efforts are also going to be made into monitoring types of offence per each

This evidence was nowhere to be seen when the council was deciding its budget. Why is it so much to ask that when deciding whether to use CCTV, policing or other approaches to improving public safety, evidence is so unwelcome?