Islington set for massive CCTV upgrade

Ambitious plans for a large-scale upgrade to Islington’s out-dated CCTV network are being drawn up – in a bid to tackle gang crime and anti-social behaviour on the borough’s estates.

Islington Council’s crime chief spoke to the Gazette this week to reveal plans to bring in state-of-the-art cameras – that take higher resolution images – and expand the network onto every estate.

She also wants to stitch together the patchwork of systems operated separately by the council, Homes for Islington (HfI) and other social landlords – by hooking them all into one centralised 24-hour control centre.

The move could save residents hundreds of pounds a year in concierge fees.

But the proposals have been criticised by civil liberties campaigners, who say there are already too many cameras in “Big Brother” Islington.

Cllr Barbara Sidnell, Islington Council’s executive member for community safety, said: “We have quite a large gang problem on estates at the moment and it will help tackle that. It will give us more evidence to put before the courts.

“It’s been proved to be a deterrent and residents tell is us it makes them feel more safe, but it’s pointless having out-of-date equipment.

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“Technology has moved on a lot since we started installing the cameras in 1997.”

Twenty-nine estates currently have CCTV cameras, covering just 18 per cent of HfI housing – most of which are not monitored at night.

Under the proposals, they would feed into the council’s 24 hour control room in Old Street, Finsbury, which would have its manpower upped from two officers at any time.

This could bring a reduction to residents who pay �321 a year in concierge charges – rising to �339 in April.

Cllr Sidnell said work would begin in 2013, although the project’s cost is not yet calculated.

But Josie Appleton, director of civil liberties campaign group The Manifesto Club, based in Farringdon Road, Clerkenwell, said: “It’s very Orwellian and is an example of the Big Brother town hall. There’s already too much CCTV and it undermines freedom to have every inch of public space watched.

“We need more police on the ground, not more cameras.”

Sharon Hayward, secretary of the Finsbury Estate Tenants’ and Residents’ Association, said: “There are question marks about how effective it is. CCTV on our estate has not stopped anti-social behaviour. There needs to be more investigation into what has a real impact on anti-social behaviour.”