Published: 00:01, 23 April 2018
| Updated: 21:37, 23 April 2018
More CCTV cameras have their eyes on Canterbury than almost any other city in the UK, statistics have revealed.
The startling figures rank the city as the sixth most watched in Britain - higher than the likes of Manchester, Cardiff and Edinburgh.
The figures have been revealed by RS Components, which draws on information from anti-surveillance group Big Brother Watch, and the Office for National Statistics.
It reveals the district is home to 336 cameras - the equivalent of one for every 483 people.
The news is likely to ignite debate as to whether the public should be so comprehensively monitored.
But former policeman and Conservative councillor Ashley Clark is steadfast on his view.
“CCTV keeps citizens safe,” he said.
“It eliminates all doubt. Having dealt with a number of offences over the years, you get a variety of witnesses saying conflicting things but camera footage removes all of that doubt and the truth comes out.”
But there are many left uneasy about the state’s monitoring.
Young Labour support group member Charlie Mower, 19, says the increasing levels of CCTV are worrying.
He explained: “I’ve always thought too much CCTV promotes a neoconservative surveillance culture, which can lead to an unaccountable police state.
“That, in turn, creates an atmosphere of suspicion and fear as of a means of control.”
Canterbury ranks behind Bristol, Birmingham, Stoke, Chelmsford and Liverpool on the list - which excludes London - as the most monitored cities.
Elsewhere in Kent, Maidstone is ranked as the 15th most surveyed town, while Dover is low down the list with just 46 cameras keeping an eye on its residents.
Regarding the long-running argument over privacy being breached, Cllr Clark added: “Where can you be private in a public place? There is no privacy as you are out in the open.
“Innocent people have absolutely nothing to worry about, the criminals on the other hand have everything to worry about.
“People should be aware that if want to do something in private then they should go somewhere private - there are no cameras snooping in on their home.
“A number of significant crimes have been detected as a result of CCTV so I see no reason for it to be a bad thing.”
The city council says 186 of the its cameras are public facing in the streets whereas the rest are inside authority-run buildings such as the Marlowe.
With a population of just 162,000, the district is the third smallest to make it into the top 20. Manchester has almost five times as many people yet there are 70 fewer cameras.
Leo Whitlock, spokesman for Canterbury City Council said: “The district is a thriving tourist destination, home to the Cathedral and to three universities, so there are huge numbers of people who expect us to help keep them safe, prevent crime and help police catch criminals 24 hours a day, every day of the year.
“Our CCTV team was directly responsible for more than 330 arrests in the past 12 months and the evidence we collect is used by prosecutors in hundreds of cases every year.
“In March, cameras based in the district helped the authorities deal with 135 public order offences, helped in 30 missing persons cases, helped with 14 cases of theft, supported the ambulance and fire services eight times and helped with 33 arrests.
“Our team has also helped to prevent suicides and regularly spot people who need help or are vulnerable because they have had too much to drink or have fallen ill.”