Cash cuts mean communities must fund CCTV

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Communities across the Borders may soon have to launch fundraising campaigns to replace and maintain outdated CCTV equipment.

Plans by cash-strapped Scottish Borders Council (SBC) to gradually withdraw the £40,000 it annually spends on the upkeep of the security cameras were conveyed to last week’s meeting of the Police, Fire and Safer Communities Board.

“It is proposed the council instead works with the police to assist local communities to retain and install them,” said a report from Andrew Drummond-Hunt, SBC’s commercial services director.

“Questions have arisen as to the viability of the council continuing to provide and fund the service, particularly since the prime reason for having them is to assist the police with investigations into criminal activity.

“There is an argument, therefore, that CCTV provision is a Police Scotland matter and the police should at least fund these systems.”

But that scenario was quickly dismissed by Chief Superintendent Gill Imery.

With Scotland’s single centralised force facing budget cuts of £60million in the coming year, CS Imery told the multi-agency meeting: “CCTV is not for the benefit of the police – it is for the benefit of communities. We will honour previous commitments, but we will not enter into any new ones.”

The board heard that the police currently monitor the cameras – in Galashiels, Hawick, Kelso, Melrose, Peebles, Selkirk, Duns and Eyemouth – on a reactive basis, with 24-hour access to the locally-based monitors when incidents, such as vandalism, shoplifting and breaches of the peace, are being investigated, and believed they played a key role in deterrence.

The cost of replacing the existing analogue systems with digital cameras able to harness Wi-Fi and broadband had “dramatically declined”, said Mr Drummond-Hunt, adding: “This makes CCTV systems viable for communities to fund without dedicated financial support from the council.”

With neither council nor police willing or able to fund CCTV, the board agreed that community councils should now be consulted on the way forward.