Friday, 05 June 2020

Councillors split over benefits of CCTV in tackling vandalism

Councillors split over benefits of CCTV in tackling vandalism

PLANS to install CCTV at crime hot spots in Henley have moved forward.

Town councillors have agreed to put the project out to tender despite some saying they didn’t believe it would solve the problem of antisocial behaviour.

It comes after a series of vandal attacks and other incidents at Makins recreation ground in Greys Road and Freemans Meadow in Fair Mile.

The cost of installing the mobile cameras is likely to be more than £25,000.

The council’s recreation and amenities committee agreed to put the tender on Contracts Finder, a government website for companies seeking public sector work.

Councillor Sarah Miller said the cameras would act as a deterrent.

“It will be a safer place knowing there is CCTV,” she said. “There is too much vandalism in all our parks. Some people just go out and decide they are going to vandalise something.”

Councillor Laurence Plant said: “We are protecting areas where we have invested lots of money so that people can enjoy them. We want them to be user-friendly for all ages.

“There is a lot of petty vandalism and if they see the cameras, they are more likely to stop. We need to do the best we can to curb vandalism.”

But Councillor Paula Isaac said she had spoken to Pc Barbara Taylor, part of the town’s neighbourhood policing team, who was not convinced that CCTV would work.

She added: “I’m not against it but I think it might be prudent to have a consultation with the police to see how effective they think it would be.”

Deputy Mayor David Eggleton said he thought the cameras would be a waste of money and he would prefer to talk to young people and address the reasons for their bad behaviour.

He added: “If they know there are cameras in the area, they will wear masks so that we can’t see their faces. I’m not totally against it but what we should be doing is addressing the problem rather than trying to catch people and give them a criminal record.

“If we can deal with antisocial behaviour and try to create some workshops that would resolve the problem then we don’t have to keep spending money.”

Councillor John Hooper said the installation of CCTV at Henley Town FC, where he is the chairman, had put a stop to problems with vandalism.

“Before it was a regular event. In the last three months we have had nothing,” he said.

The mobile cameras would be attached to street lights from which they take their power and housed in a vandal-resistant case. They could be easily moved between locations.

The images could be viewed remotely over a wireless internet connection. In order to install CCTV in public parks, the council would be required to adopt a policy covering areas such as privacy and data protection.

The council has previously asked South Oxfordshire District Council, which operates a number of CCTV cameras in Henley, to consider adding more but this was rejected on grounds of cost.

Brain injury charity Headway has expressed concern that installing cameras could move the problem of anti-
social behaviour into its garden at Brunner Hall, which is next to the recreation ground. It has experienced vandalism in the past.

On December 29, vandals used pink spray paint to deface a new set of swings at Freemans Meadows. This came less than two weeks after newly planted fruit trees were damaged and destroyed in another attack.

The incidents sparked calls by residents for CCTV to be installed in the area.

At Makins, vandals removed part of a metal fence in June and sprayed graffiti at the skate park, including blue swastikas on the grass. Other incidents have included alcohol being confiscated from young people and there have also been reports of drug-taking, littering and bullying.

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