Out of control – that is how councillors have described the current CCTV situation in Medway.
Elected members expressed their fury on Thursday night (October 18) about the number of cameras not working in the Towns, as well as a lack of progress regarding Medway Council’s CCTV review.
It has been suggested 80% of the authority’s cameras in Gillingham High Street are beyond repair, while there have been ongoing complaints from residents and business owners across the area.
Cllr Matt Fearn (Con) said: “How have we got to this situation – why have we not dealt with things sooner? Why have we let it get out of control?
“If the reports are true, there are 157 cameras that need replacing.
“If they are all £4,000, that’s £630,000 to find. If we had done this as we had gone along and as they were reported, we could have dealt with this and the situation wouldn’t have got out of control.”
Medway Council is responsible for the CCTV “stock”, but the maintenance and repair of the cameras has been outsourced to Medway Commercial Group (MCG) – the authority’s own trading company.
The matter was debated after John Lloyd, who brought a petition on the matter to the council, said he was disappointed about the lack of progress in replacing a CCTV camera outside Twydall Post Office.
He added: “The people of Twydall and the local shopkeepers have now run out of patience and are demanding urgent action.
“On Monday last week, an 87-year-old was mugged at 11am – in broad daylight – close to the Twydall Tandoori as she walked from the post office around the shopping parade.
“I understand the actual mugging was not caught on CCTV but fortunately on this occasion, one of the cameras that is working elsewhere managed to capture a decent CCTV image of a suspect.
“Incidents like this demonstrate that CCTV coverage in Twydall is vital, both to act as a deterrent and to assist the police with gathering evidence when crimes do occur.”
Deputy chief executive Richard Hicks said the camera Mr Lloyd referred to is a “priority”, and he will be in a position to say when it will be fixed “within the next seven days”.
Cllr Alex Paterson (Lab) said he felt recent “seismic events” in Rochester – a stabbing in The Vines and a suspicious death near Rochester Bridge – would have brought about change quicker.
He told committee members: “I think it’s totally unacceptable and I do think those kinds of events should be a wake-up call, because you say there are priorities.
“With all due respect to the petition, if Twydall Post Office is a priority then it’s safe to say Rochester High Street had to be a priority.”
Councillors demanded to know the time scale of the ongoing CCTV review, but were told they will have this information by mid-November.
Ruth Du-Lieu, assistant director for front line services, said there was two aspects of the work – replacing cameras in key locations, and the strategic approach going forward.
She said: “The council owns all the CCTV stock, so when the transfer happened to MCG, the council maintains that stock – it belongs to us.
“The responsibility for maintaining the stock – the cameras and other infrastructure – is MCG, and it is my understanding they have been regularly maintaining that.
“Where we’ve been notified they are absolutely beyond repair, we have tried to put actions in place to replace the cameras.”
The first work stream (priority areas) is due to be discussed at the next regeneration, culture and environment committee meeting in December. MCG will also be invited to attend.