A campaign group that is concerned with privacy has said that two Co Derry councils must justify the use of all CCTV cameras.
Big Brother Watch were responding to figures obtained by the County Derry Post which show that hundreds of CCTV cameras are in operation in the Mid Ulster and Causeway Coast and Glens areas.
In a 2016 report, Big Brother Watch revealed that councils in the north spent at least £1.8 million in three years on installing, operating and maintaining their CCTV network. The ‘Are They Still Watching’ showed that from 2012 to 2015 Mid Ulster council spent £174,000 on CCTV and Causeway Coast and Glens spent £281,860.
In response to a Freedom of Information request, Mid Ulster Council revealed that 350 CCTV cameras are currently in operation on council property. From April 2015 until March 2017 the council spent £32,112 on the installation and maintenance of the cameras.
More than 150 CCTV cameras are currently in operation at sports facilities in the area, with 24 cameras in operation at Magherafelt’s Meadowbank centre and 51 at the Greenvale Leisure Centre. Just two CCTV cameras are in operation at Magherafelt Council offices, while the Bridewell has seven cameras and the Seamus Heaney Homeplace in Bellaghy has 21.
Responding to an FOI request, Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council said that it “currently operates and maintains 422 cameras for the purposes of prevention and detection of crime on its estate.” From April 2015 until March 2017 the council spent around £27,000 on the installation and maintenance of the cameras.
Mid Ulster council also revealed that £96,824 was spent from April 2015 to March 2017 on the installation and maintenance of 20 cameras in town centres or other public places. Six cameras are in operation in Magherafelt, five in Maghera and one in Draperstown.
A breakdown of camera locations in the Causeway Coast and Glens area has been requested, as has details of cameras operated by the council in town centres.
Daniel Nesbitt, research director of Big Brother Watch, said the councils must justify the use and cost of CCTV cameras and ensure they are effective.
“Far too often CCTV is found to be in the wrong place, picking up nothing of use or simply not helping to reduce crime,” he said.
“Instead of pouring more money into their CCTV networks councils should review how effective the cameras actually are.
“Councils must prove, with clear statistics, that every camera they control is shown to be needed, if a camera is found to be ineffective it should be scrapped.”