Helston could be at the centre of a CCTV blackout unless officials step in to save the system.
It has led to concerns over the potential implications for the town’s residents, in particularly the elderly who are already reluctant to go out after dark.
Four years after withdrawing funding for monitoring, Cornwall Council has revealed that from April next year it will also no longer fund the maintenance of the cameras, which act as an important deterrent for crime and often provide key evidence in a police investigation.
The county authority has threatened to decommission the cameras unless town councils take over the system themselves.
Helston already pays towards the part monitoring of its seven cameras, which is carried out in Hayle, in partnership with Hayle, St Ives, Redruth and Camborne town councils.
It has now been urged to make sure the system stays active, due to the potential impact on residents’ safety.
Nick Martin, chairman of Helston Age Concern, said if the cameras were to go it would “take away from the safety of the town,” not just for the elderly but everyone.
“A lot of people are reluctant to go out [after dark] because they no longer feel safe – but they are aware that the cameras do help. If they were taken away that’s another safety feature taken away,” he said.
He added that in his opinion the loss of the camera would make people feel more vulnerable – and the percentage of elderly people in Helston was increasing all the time.
“Because it’s a safety feature and for the wellbeing of everyone I feel the town council, if no one else, should take it on. But being an ex mayor and councillor I’m aware of the cost,” said Mr Martin.
Helston Town Council’s amenities committee is currently in talks about the costs involved in taking over the system.
They have met with Tamsin Lees and David George from Cornwall Council’s community safety team, who said that the existing running costs could be “substantially reduced” by upgrading the town’s cameras.
Currently these operate via microwave radio link, but by buying a reporter unit and transmitting footage by Ethernet this would bring costs downs, if Helston wanted to continue joint monitoring.
Town clerk Chris Dawson said that to decommission the system would cost Cornwall Council approximately £300,000 – but to upgrade the cameras would cost a similar amount. For that reason the authority is offering funding to councils towards the upgrading of their system. It would cost around £10,00 to supply and install the reporter, with a further £4,000 to upgrade each camera.
However, one of the town’s landlords believes there could be a cheaper alternative that would actually improve coverage.
Jonathan Waddoups, landlord of The Bell Inn in Meneage Street, said of the current system: “It costs the taxpayers far too much money, when a simpler option could be adopted and give a better service.”
He suggested a percentage of the money offered should instead go towards installing or upgrading existing cameras outside each of the town’s pubs, with the police then able to gain immediate access to the footage should there be any incidents.
Publicans are already legally required to have internal CCTV systems under their premises licence and Mr Waddoups believes extending the service is just a short step away, which would save the town money.
“If we paid out for some cameras in the correct places we need them in we’d have better coverage. The locations of the pubs now would be a good matrix,” he added.
Mr Waddoups believed it was essential that the cameras be kept running, adding: “It’s a deterrent and a safety measure, not only for people drinking and people causing trouble but for the general public. It could capture a road traffic incident or a theft from a shop. It makes everyone feel safer to know there’s cameras about.”
Mr Waddoups said he raised his suggestion at the last meeting of Pub Watch in the town and without exception the other landlords were supportive of the scheme.
The amenities committee is to meet again with the police, Cornwall Council officers, the Helston Business Improvement Partnership and landlords to discuss the options further.