As part of their election promises, several candidates including the elected Liberal Mayor, had intended to commit Liverpool City Council to installing CCTV cameras in the Central Business District (CBD).
However, examine the facts; Council generated an extensive report (2011) which rejected the use of CCTV cameras in the CBD. The reasons were simply that CCTV was not economically justifiable; they had little effect in deterring crime in open areas. The statistics produced by numerous reputable Studies claimed that the crime rate in area such as the CBD would be reduced by less than 7%. However the cost of operating and monitoring such a scheme in Liverpool could be as high as $2 million per year. The report concluded that there are more economical ways of achieving a similar long term result. Internationally there are similar doubts about the effectiveness of CCTV, especially when used on a large scale such as in London.
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As an example, late in its last term (2011), Council conducted several safety audits of the CBD. Those audits found there were a range of issues that contributed directly to the perceived safety problems in the CBD. The audit identified that one of the most outstanding detrimental factors was poor lighting. Many overhead lights in the heart of the CBD were faulty or non operational. Poorly lit areas, trees, shrubs and hedges blocking out lights, badly positioned luminaires and the lack of adequate maintenance were cited as the major factors leading to a feeling of insecurity after dark. I was part of that audit group along with concerned business people, Police and residents, we all saw it and agreed, totally.
Since then, Council has started to address the problem, as is the contracted lighting and energy authority.
No doubt CCTV cameras would make the job of the Police easier, but at what price? Without adequate lighting the cameras do not function correctly which makes identification of anyone very difficult. Hence installing adequate lighting should be Councils first priority before contemplating any cameras. The $470,000 or so, allocated in 2012, plus $150,000 in April 2013, would go a long way towards fixing lighting problems and the perceived safety concerns.
Policing and crime prevention are primarily the responsibilities of State and Federal Governments, to ask Local Councils to install, monitor and maintain CCTV cameras at no cost to the State Government is another blatant example of cost shifting a state responsibility onto local ratepayers and should be resisted. It effectively forces ratepayers to pay for policing services twice.
The estimated $2M outlay needed represents around 3% of rates, to ask ratepayers to pay that while we have a backlog of $260M in maintenance and infrastructure does not make economic sense to me, particularly when relatively few ratepayers will benefit from such an outlay. There is also the fact that Council will loose around $6.5 million in 18 months (2015) when the special rate variance ceases. What service does Council NOT do while it installs and maintains CCTV cameras for relatively little gain?
Also keep in mind that Council previously installed CCTV cameras with little proven effect in crime reduction and as such were eventually removed.
I would have less of an objection if the majority of the funding was provided by the Town Improvement Fund (TIF) a fund that the CBD business community already contributes to, but to ask ratepayers, particularly those that live in the outer suburbs of Liverpool to contribute 3% of their rates is unfair and unjustifiable, especially when they have to content with rapidly deteriorating roads and lack of related infrastructure. However, the same could be said for the CBD business community, the TIF funds are desperately needed to improve the appearance of the CBD in order to attract customers to it, especially the southern end.
Sadly there is a constant barrage of people who should know better, implying that Liverpool is an unsafe place; that is a misrepresentation of the facts. Liverpool has no more crime than any other city of comparable size, current Police statistic bear that out.
I do not support Council bearing the cost of CCTV cameras alone; this Council has far more important priorities to take care of.
Clr Peter Harle