Wed, 10 Aug 2016
A THATCHAM police officer has criticised the decision to switch off the town’s CCTV.
Pc Jon Bradford told Thatcham town councillors at a meeting last week that a vital tool to help him police the town had been taken away.
Thatcham’s four cameras were switched off in March after West Berkshire Council withdrew its £224,930 contribution for 40 cameras in the district.
Thatcham’s cameras cost £19,888 (£4,972 per camera) with monitoring costing £14,636.
Pc Bradford described the cuts as a massive loss and said that the police didn’t have the personnel numbers to be in the Broadway all the time.
He said that he had CCTV evidence from a break-in at the Kingsland Centre to move the investigation forward.
“If it had happened in the Broadway I would have nothing to go on,” he said.
“I can’t understand how that’s not funded.
“They can do stuff before I arrive and behind my back that I can’t see, and get away with it.”
Town and district councillor Dominic Boeck (Con, Thatcham South and Crookham) said that the council had had to make some difficult decisions when setting its budget.
He said that the decision was not taken lightly but the council’s experience showed that evidence from CCTV had little to no use.
The leader of West Berkshire Council, Roger Croft (Con, Thatcham South and Crookham), added: “We did request funding from Thames Valley Police and they refused, so we have to assume they see no value in it.”
Mr Croft added that the Police and Crime Commissioner, Anthony Stansfeld, believed that CCTV was no longer as relevant because of the rise of smartphones.
“I’m not at that level,” Pc Bradford replied, “I’m at the level that I feel I need something to back me up.”
Pc Bradford said that the removal of CCTV had watered down the impact that the police could have in the town.
He also said that residents had told him that they didn’t like going to the Broadway because gangs of youths were hanging around cash points.
Sheila Ellison (Con, Thatcham North) added that CCTV had not helped in the past as the cameras had been facing the wrong way.
“I understand and hear what you are saying but our experience is we have had CCTV and when we have had problems there hasn’t been the evidence,” Mrs Ellison said.
Pc Bradford replied: “That can happen but cameras in a fixed position are going to give you more than nothing.”
The town council decided to not take on the costs of running the town’s cameras, much to Pc Bradford’s disappointment.
“Even Hungerford have got it and I know the differences between Hungerford and Thatcham,” he said.
There may be hope though, as the Newbury Business Improvement District (BID) is working with Newbury Town Council on a replacement CCTV service.
Thatcham’s cameras could link in to that system, which would be monitored from the Kennet Centre.
Police officers, councillors and members of Thatcham’s business community will discuss how to tackle problems of anti-social behaviour in the town at a meeting next week.