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Cuts to 24-hour CCTV monitoring in Barnet sparks fears criminals will take advantage

Barnet Council has approved plans to outsource its CCTV service to private firm OCS Group UK Ltd. Picture: PA Archive/Clive Gee. Barnet Council has approved plans to outsource its CCTV service to private firm OCS Group UK Ltd. Picture: PA Archive/Clive Gee.

Friday, December 20, 2013
8:00 AM

Plans to cut 24-hour live monitoring of CCTV cameras across Barnet have sparked fears criminals will be given an eight-hour “window of opportunity”.

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Cllr Jack Cohen and Marjorie Harris at one of the new pay by phone or coins parking meters on Temple Fortune Lane.Cllr Jack Cohen and Marjorie Harris at one of the new pay by phone or coins parking meters on Temple Fortune Lane.

Conservative-run Barnet Council approved plans to outsource its CCTV service to private firm OCS Group UK Ltd during a cabinet ­resources committee meeting on Monday.

Under the new five-year contract, set to save ­almost £750,000 as part of the council’s controversial One Barnet outsourcing programme, all 120 CCTV cameras monitoring public spaces will be replaced by new wireless technology.

The network of cameras is currently monitored 24 hours a day by a team of council security officials based in a control room in Hendon, but under the new regime this is set to be slashed to 16-hour daily monitoring, between 12noon and 4am.

The council claims 16-hour monitoring will cover 80 per cent of crimes across the borough.

Cllr Jack Cohen, leader of Barnet Council’s Liberal Democrat group, said: “Once the villains find out where the window of opportunity is they’ll be tempted to [commit] crime knowing no one’s watching them.

“Crime and anti-social behaviour doesn’t respect the opening hours of a CCTV control room, it happens 24 hours a day.”

Cllr Alison Moore, leader of the Labour group, said: “The reality is one in five crimes won’t be live monitored. If you asked your ­average person in the street, they may feel less safe.”

As part of the new system, the Hendon control room will close and ­operations will be moved to a site in Enfield where CCTV monitoring of both boroughs will take place.

Police based at Colindale station will be able to access live CCTV footage from across Barnet during the eight-hour daily closure of the Enfield control room.

All current council staff in Hendon will have the ­option of transferring to Enfield under a contract with OCS Group.

The new system will provide higher-resolution footage, the ability to move wireless cameras around the borough to crime hotspots and will also offer specialist car number plate recognition technology.

Cllr David Longstaff, cabinet member for safety and resident engagement, said: “We will have state-of-the-art equipment with far better technology that will ­improve images and improve identification in court.

“I am particularly pleased that we will be able to introduce Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) which will allow the police to track vehicles in real time, providing them with the intelligence to link and solve crimes ­including burglary.”

Cllr Cohen also raised concerns about a private company taking control of CCTV in Barnet.

He said: “At the moment because it’s run by the council there’s some democratic control about the use of the footage. Once it goes into private hands, you lose that accountability.

“The purpose of CCTV should be the prevention of crime and disorder. It shouldn’t be used as an ­opportunity to spy on people. Where are the controls?”

Ch Supt Adrian Usher, of Barnet Police, said: “The new CCTV system will have cameras recording continuously. Any crime committed in the coverage area will be collected as evidence by officers.”

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