Talking cameras rejected

A CCTV talking camera.
A CCTV talking camera.

PLANS to introduce talking cameras in town centre hot spots in a bid to keep a check on rowdy revellers have been rejected.

Mayor Stuart Drummond turned down proposals to start using recorded messages from existing CCTV cameras in Church Street and York Road, in the centre of Hartlepool.

Talking cameras are used in other parts of the country to tackle anti-social behaviour, help police manage the night-time economy and help prevent incidents from escalating.

But Mayor Drummond described them as too “gimmicky” and raised concerns that “Big Brother” style tactics could lead to a loss of public confidence.

Officers had put forward proposals to start a three-month trial at a meeting of Mayor Drummond’s community safety and housing portfolio.

A report highlighted examples of talking cameras elsewhere that show they can be an “effective tool” in reducing violent and aggressive behaviour.

But the plans have been rejected.

He said: “I have never been particularly keen on them and I have always thought they are a bit gimmicky as opposed to being an effective tool.

“I took the view that CCTV is there first of all as a means of public reassurance but if they start directing people and telling them what to do, then I think that Big Brother-style approach would have a big dent in public confidence.

“This is not a town priority at the moment.”

Council officers said examples of talking cameras elsewhere show that they can be an “effective tool” in reducing incidents of violent and aggressive behaviour.

It would have allowed an operator in the CCTV monitoring centre to communicate with troublemakers through pre-recorded messages during the day or night.

The CCTV cameras are in Church Street at the junction with Station Approach and at the junction of York Road and Victoria Road on the side of the Co-op building.

The cameras are already equipped with audio equipment and Mayor Drummond said he was happy to use them for emergency announcements but not to help manage daytime behaviour or the night-time economy.

Mayor Drummond said: “The audio equipment attached to the cameras can be used in emergencies but hopefully they won’t ever be needed.”

Middlesbrough Borough Council introduced seven talking cameras in the town centre three years ago to tackle litter louts.

Meanwhile, Bristol City Council installed similar technology in 2007 to tackle night-time related violent behaviour, anti-social behaviour including people urinating in the street and littering.

The idea of using talking cameras in Hartlepool was first raised back in 2008 during a scrutiny investigation.