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CCTV hit by switchover problems

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There are fears that crime has been going unrecorded due to a hitch in the transfer of Newbury's CCTV system

A HITCH in the transfer of the Newbury CCTV monitoring system to a new high-tech centre in Windsor may have resulted in criminal activities going unmonitored, according to several local figures.

An incident of anti-social behaviour in the town centre over the Christmas period resulted in calls to the town's ShopSafe radio system, a network that link retailers and local businesses with police and the CCTV control room.

ShopSafe operators were said to have reported back that no CCTV cameras were operating in the town centre, and that any such incident would not be recorded.

Now local businessmen have claimed that since its switch to a combined digital control room in Windsor, it is an open secret that the new CCTV system, a publicly funded service which the council has said will provide clearer images for identification purposes, has been besieged with problems.

Lee Kelly, licensee of the Waggon and Horses pub in Newbury town centre said it was no secret that the new CCTV system wasn't working properly. “It's the talk of the town. On Monday (December 27) at around 7pm there was a gang of youths wandering around clutching bottles and glasses,” he said.

“I refused them entry and they became very aggressive. I called the ShopSafe number and asked them to track these guys on camera and the reply came back: ‘That's a negative – we can't contact the camera operators.' I then called the police and asked for help. No-one came. I didn't even see a single police patrol that night and it was an ugly situation.”

The chairman of the Newbury Retailers Association, Brian Burgess, said that the mood among local traders over the issue of CCTV was sour, and claimed that he knew of another pub licensee who had rung the control room only to be told there was a problem with the cameras.

“There used to be a very good dialogue between ShopSafe and the control room in Newbury. The cameras would pan in on where the problem was or where a known offender was causing problems. I'm told this no longer happens.”

Newbury Labour Party activist Richard Garvie said he called the Windsor control room over the Christmas period, at the behest of traders in the town, to find out how many cameras were filming the town.

He said: “I wanted this confirmed so I rang the control room myself. I was told the operators could not access any cameras from Newbury.”

He said that he was told that seven cameras out of a total of 40 were covering Newbury at that time.

Mr Garvie described the handling of the switchover as “shambolic”.

He said that he had seen supermarkets with better CCTV systems and called for the resignation of the portfolio holder for community safety, Anthony Stansfeld (Con, Kintbury).

Mr Stansfeld staunchly rebuffed the claims and said that he had no intention of standing down.

He said: “[Mr Garvie's] comments that only seven cameras were working were ill-informed.

“Only seven cameras were connected to Windsor as they were switched over in groups, but the vast majority were connected to Newbury so images were still being recorded. He is trying to cause problems and has wasted a lot of people's time.”

He said that the cameras were being switched over in batches to minimise disruption, and a one-week delay in completing the operation had been caused by the bad weather, adding that he had received no complaints from any businesses over the issue of CCTV and was not aware of any incidents going unrecorded.

Newburytoday.co.uk understands that currently, the switchover is still in the testing phase, and owing to the bad weather which hindered the replacement of certain cameras, will continue for the next week at least.

There was further confusion over the current status of the cameras when, contrary to claims that the CCTV switch-over would continue for the next week, West Berkshire Council spokesman Keith Ulyatt said that all the CCTV cameras in Newbury were working and all were now digital.

When asked how many cameras had been switched off for, for what period of time, and how many cameras were currently in operation, Mr Ulyatt refused to comment on grounds that an answer would undermine the security and safety of the town.

He added that the authority was not prepared to comment on the possibility of an investigation into problems surrounding the switch-over, which is expected to save West Berkshire Council £250,000 each year.

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