TOWN councillors have considered whether they should install more CCTV cameras in Lyme Regis, in light of a recent spate of burglaries and attempted break-ins.
Councillors were asked at last week’s Town Management & Highways Committee whether they wanted to join the new Dorset Council’s CCTV project, allowing Dorset Police to monitor footage from existing cameras in the town for no charge.
Councillor Jeff Scowen said it was a “no brainer” to join the scheme, but also questioned why there were no plans to add cameras in Broad Street, which he described as the “most important area of the town”.
The council’s operations supervisor Matt Adamson-Drage said that adding cameras in Broad Street was “on the table” as part of the recent review of the council’s CCTV system, but it was eventually decided just to upgrade the existing infrastructure.
Councillor Brian Larcombe said the council had considered a report from a CCTV consultant, which recommended areas that cameras should cover and Broad Street was not one of them.
Councillor Scowen pointed out that there had been another break-in in the town centre last week, which followed a spate of burglaries over the Christmas and New Year period.
The Mayor, Councillor Michaela Ellis, advocated that the council should also have ANPR cameras, which can recognise number plates on vehicles.
Councillor Scowen added: “I think we can’t have enough security with what has been happening recently.”
However, Councillor Richard Doney spoke very strongly against CCTV.
He commented: “I can understand why people think it’s helpful but there’s a much bigger issue here and that’s the whole surveillance of the public by authorities.
“This country must be in the top five in terms of CCTV coverage and I very strongly object to that. This is a philosophical issue.”
Referring to Dorset Council’s CCTV project, he added: “This scheme all sounds very interesting but what benefit do the police think we are going to get from it?”
Councillor Ellis said footage could be used as evidence. Councillor Doney continued: “That sort of thing is often not good enough for evidential purposes. I can’t convince myself there’s any benefit. What it’s doing is increasing surveillance of the public.”
Councillor Stan Williams suggested that traders should pay for their own cameras, commenting: “Most places you go traders put up their own cameras. It’s not really our problem, is it?
“We’re saving them money on doing that. We’re spending council taxpayers’ money on something that… if someone breaks into a place, it’s not really the council’s fault. It’s everybody’s duty to defend their own properties.”
Councillor Larcombe expressed concerns that an increase in CCTV coverage could result in less police officers ‘on the beat’.
He said: “I’d much rather see people doing the rounds, police out being mobile rather than sat at a desk watching a screen.”
Councillor John Broom replied: “You won’t see it, sorry.”
Responding to Councillor Doney’s concerns, Councillor Scowen commented: “I’m pretty certain that the UK has the highest per capita CCTV cameras in the world and I understand Richard’s liberal concerns about prying into people’s lives.
“However, our first duty is to protect the public and I’m afraid any consideration such as those, valid though they may be, don’t hold sway in this situation.
“I don’t see anything wrong with it and I think it’s our duty to put them up and do as much as we can to protect the people that live here and visitors.”
Councillor Larcombe said that the consultant’s report said there were not enough “substantial crime issues to warrant an increase in CCTV”.
Councillor Ellis said “things have changed” since the report, with Councillor Steve Miller adding that there had been an increase in burglaries.
Members agreed to sign up to Dorset Council’s CCTV project and said that increasing the CCTV system to cover Broad Street would be discussed at a future committee meeting.