Blackpool is set to invest £2m updating its CCTV system in order to boost public safety including from any potential future terrorism threat.
The council is proposing to almost quadruple the number of cameras monitoring the town centre and Promenade from 92 to 346, and create a new Command and Control Centre.
Cameras would have 360 degree vision while more than 100 speakers are being attached to CCTV columns capable of delivering public safety messages.
A report to the council’s executive says the Manchester Arena bombing inquiry had highlighted the need for stronger systems to protect the public and manage large public events.
The current control room will be moved
The CCTV centre will be moved from the defunct Bonny Street police station to Municipal Buildings on Corporation Street, enabling the resort to have an incident coordinaton centre.
This could be used by different agencies including the council and police to “manage and coordinate large events and borough-wide major incidents.”
It would also help the council meet expected new legislation to ensure the public are “protected from terrorist attacks and ensure organisational preparedness”.
Initial findings from the Manchester Arena Inquiry in June this year also “highlighted a number of failings and lessons learned with regard to
Many cameras are now out of date
security” including in relation to CCTV.
The executive report adds: “Whilst these lessons are for a different environment the principles of the lessons identified should be considered in relation to CCTV, especially with the council hosting major events such as concerts, air shows and the World Fireworks Championships.”
It was revealed last December that Blackpool’s CCTV system needed a major overhaul due to the technology becoming obsolete.
The executive report warns: “A great deal of equipment and screens within the control room are coming to the end of their natural life”.
It is proposed to replace most of the existing 92 cameras and provide a further 254 cameras, which would result in Blackpool’s core CCTV system having 346
updated cameras in total.
Updated technology would improve the quality of images captured and enable police and enforcement officers to access them more quickly.
It is also proposed bo buy a mobile CCTV unit linked to the new control room for use at events, hot spot areas and for emergency incidents.
Monitoring would be carried out by council enforcement officers and volunteers, with more volunteers expected to be added to the roster.
Coun Tony Williams, leader of the Conservative group on the council and who has previously criticised the level of CCTV coverage in the town, welcomed the proposed investment.
But he added: “Installing new cameras and improved monitoring will only pay dividends if combined with other factors that need implementing such as improved lighting, increased security personnel and user friendly car parks.
“I think its also important to realise that not all crime is conducted in the town centre. Recently there has been a huge surge in residential crime and certain neighbourhoods need to be monitored and protected in any crime reduction schemes.”
And he warned against becoming “a Big Brother society under constant surveillance” saying CCTV should be “just one of the tools in the box”.
Dave Blacker, chairman of the Talbot ward PACT (police and community together) also welcomed the proposals.
He said: “I think the vast majority of our Talbot PACT members will be delighted with the planned investment in CCTV.
“It worked to reduce crime before in our town and it can work again. Clearly if you are going about your lawful business you have nothing to fear.”
The £2m investment would be drawn from various pots of capital spending in the town centre, while an additional £100,000 is proposed to be set aside to meet support costs such as recruitment and training.
The executive is due to consider the recommendations when it meets on Monday September 13. If the scheme goes ahead, it is expected to take around 12 months to implement.
A bid is also being made to the Government’s £25m Safer Streets Fund aimed at improving the safety of women and girls in public spaces following the killing of Sarah Everard in London in March this year.
Consultation has taken place with women in Blackpool to be part of the new CCTV project, including helping to monitor and identify potentially dangerous behaviour.
Since the CCTV control room opened, more than 2,000 evidence discs have been produced to help tackle crime.
* 550 in relation to assault;
* 300 in relation to theft;
* 700 in relation to begging and anti-social behaviour;
* 750 in relation to drug dealing, missing persons, vandalism, road traffic accidents, arson, slip, trips and falls, suicides, sexual assaults, rogue traders and fly-tipping.
History of CCTV in Blackpool
The town’s CCTV camera system, launched in 2001, had cost in the region of £1.5m to set up, and in 2009 it was costing £600,000 a year to operate.
Cameras were monitored round-the-clock seven days a week until cuts were made in 2011, and the number of CCTV operators was reduced from 11 to three as part of a £908,000 package of cuts covering parking and CCTV.
Monitoring was reduced to Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
The council stopped monitoring its CCTV cameras in April 2013 as part of a package of savings which saw £187,600 slashed from the CCTV budget as part of total council cuts of £14.1m.
Live surveillance was reintroduced in November 2015, largely using teams of volunteers.