Police and Crime panel hear from PCC about CCTV and HQ rethink

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A summary article on two of the issues from this week’s Surrey Police & Crime Panel where district and borough councillors and lay members get to question the elected Police & Crime Commissioner Lisa Townsend and also heard from the deputy chief constable on the review of their estates options.

Joining up Council funded but Police monitored CCTV arrangements across 11 districts and boroughs, a long running issue, was raised by MVDC’s representative on the panel as the PCC was reported to have told Fetcham Residents Association that it wasn’t necessarily the solution to all crime and antisocial behaviour issues. Q&A below with webcast link to additional discussion.

More information about the review process to decide if the Police HQ will still relocate to Leatherhead or stay at Guildford. These suggest cost is a factor in the Leatherhead option as well as some of the logistical issues of being based in a residential area.

These show that in June 2021, it was decided that “to demonstrate good governance and address a number of financial challenges”, a full strategic review would be carried out which would concentrate on 3 options:

  1. Continue with the Leatherhead development but adapting it to take account of the financial challenges this presents;
  2. Remaining at Mount Browne and redeveloping the facilities there;
  3. Developing or moving to a new site entirely. (this option now ruled out, only 1 or 2 are on the table)

Decision on this due by November 2021. Webcast link to the discussion

Also under discussion was the issue of CCTV and co-ordination between the Police and the 11 districts and boroughs, including panel member and Fetcham councillor Paul Kennedy’s question:

Webcast link to the Q&A

Cllr Paul Kennedy

 PCC REVIEW OF SURREY POLICE’S CCTV STRATEGY

At the request of Fetcham Residents Association and Bookhams Residents’ Association, I put a question to Surrey’s Police and Crime Commissioner about her approach to CCTV at last Wednesday’s Police and Crime Panel meeting. This followed statements she made on a recent visit to Fetcham in which she seemed to indicate scepticism about the value of CCTV.

In response she said that she does see a role for CCTV and that she had asked her office to review Surrey Police‘s current strategy – see full response below.

I asked when the review would conclude, as local authorities need to make decisions, and formulate budget proposals before the end of the year. For example, councils in Eastern Surrey need to prepare for the withdrawal of police monitoring from Reigate station by 2024.The PCC said she would check likely timing with her office and get back to me.

1. Question submitted by Councillor Paul Kennedy (Mole Valley District Council)

Following the Sarah Everard tragedy, there have been widespread calls for measures to make our streets safer – with better street lighting for pedestrians and cyclists, and CCTV to deter and catch offenders and reassure women, girls and vulnerable minorities, as well of course as bringing back more visible police.

The Bookhams Residents’ Association have told me how much they value and would like to expand the CCTV in their high street, which has been instrumental in solving a number of serious crimes including a rapid response to a ramraid on a local store. However, in July you reportedly told the Fetcham Residents Association, who want CCTV installed in Fetcham village centre where there has been antisocial behaviour and a recent assault, that cameras are not the “panacea” that many residents imagine. You were reported as saying:”I would much rather look at solving issues with anti-social behaviour with a community based approach, with our police and PCSOs, making sure we are tackling the problem at the root – to make sure we are tackling it not just from an enforcement point of view but a prevention point of view as well.”

We all want to see more community policing. However, residents are perplexed that for example two police officers have been sitting in a marked car at a quiet location in Mole Valley, with its engine running for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, throughout the summer – the equivalent of over 10 FTEs or 0.5% of Surrey’s entire force.

Local authorities are currently expected to contribute to the cost of maintaining CCTV on behalf of Surrey Police, even though we are told that increasingly they do not use or value CCTV.

Do you see a role for CCTV or other surveillance tools in keeping Surrey safe and in freeing up Surrey’s police officers to be more productive, and if so when?

Response from the Police and Crime Commissioner, Lisa Townsend:

“In 2018, Surrey Police launched its CCTV Strategy. Its aims were:-

Maintaining police access to CCTV, agreeing a consistent funding process with partners to enable this-

Supporting local authorities and other partners in taking over CCTV service provision within the next five years-

To work in partnership with all CCTV stakeholders to ensure CCTV provision is forward-thinking and compliant with relevant codes of practice-

Maximising efficiency opportunities from CCTV service provision, delivering savings where possible

The strategy was discussed with partners in what is a complex mix of arrangements and funding in different districts and boroughs. It was also set against a time of increased resource pressures across the public sector. It was also recognised at the time by the Force that CCTV was not always the best way to gather intelligence and support communities feel safe and the police started to find ways to capture other intelligence like dashcam footage and mobile phone videos. However, since I took Office I have been approached regularly by Councillors and residents about CCTV, with many wanting to increase coverage in their areas. I am still of the view that CCTV has a place in our communities, however CCTV alone will not reduce crime and disorder and we need to work together to understand what is causing issues such as anti-social behaviour and find long-term preventative measures in addition to enforcement tactics.

Over the summer I asked my Office to gather information, both locally and nationally on the impact CCTV can have. I have spoken to Surrey Police’s lead on CCTV to understand their position and while I am in support of the aims of their strategy, I will be asking for this to be reviewed because, as you have noted, recent events and Home Office initiatives have supported the use of CCTV. I also want to know more about how Surrey Police are taking advantage of new tools and ways to gather information.

In respect of the police officers located in Mole Valley, I am aware that this is part of an ongoing operation and as such, I am not in a position to comment further. I do know however, that the local Safer Neighbourhoods Team has engaged with local residents on this issue.”