THOUSANDS of crimes have been caught on camera in Scarborough – leading to 2,000 arrests in just three years.
The importance to crime-fighters of the borough’s 66 closed circuit television cameras, which are operated from a control room in a secret location in Scarborough, has been revealed after new figures were obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.
The cost of running Scarborough Council’s multi-functional emergency control centre, where the camera operators are based, has also been made public.
More than £2.5 million was spent on costs including wages, equipment and maintenance in three years and the figure is rising - at a time when other council departments are having their budgets slashed.
Tony Quinn, Scarborough’s safer neighbourhood inspector, said that the introduction of CCTV ranked alongside the use of DNA as one of the most important developments for policing in the modern era.
He said: “I really can’t imagine policing without it. If anything, the figures underestimate the assistance it gives us in Scarborough.
“It is used when officers first get to hear about an incident, so they know what they are going to, it’s used at the incident for the safety of the public and the officers and afterwards, when it regularly helps the investigation and is used as vital evidence at court.
“There’s often talk where people say it’s not doing what it’s supposed to, but that’s rubbish. We couldn’t do our jobs without it. It also deters criminals and bullies if they know they’re being watched.”
Insp Quinn also paid tribute to the council’s team of 10 CCTV operators, who receive information from the police as well as licensees, doormen and security staff in shops at their control centre.
“We have a fantastic working relationship,” he said. “I hear the operators on the radio every day and I know they don’t just see it as a job, they’re committed to contributing to the welfare of Scarborough.
“It’s worth a lot more than the money it actually costs.”
The control centre and its high-tech cameras, which are monitored 24-hours-a-day, also focus on traffic flows and major events in Scarborough, such as the William Street Fair and shows at the Open Air Theatre.
Two new cameras which are to be installed in Barrowcliff are set to go live imminently - the first outside the town centre.
Included in Scarborough’s closed-circuit camera arsenal are 10 mobile devices, which are deployed in areas for three months, 54 permanent cameras and two building surveillance cameras.
The 2,000 arrests which were made in the Scarborough area thanks to the CCTV came between November 2008 and last month.
Footage from the cameras have been used in several high-profile court cases, including the murder trials of Ricky Gelardo in October last year and John Stamford last month.
The images, which showed the men in the hours before they murdered their victims, helped officers build cases which sent the pair to prison for a combined minimum of 33 years.
Cllr Janet Jefferson, who sits on Scarborough’s CCTV working group, said: “The cameras are vital to the welfare of Scarborough and the detection and apprehension of criminals.
“The digital footage is superb quality - I would like to see more of them.”