No hiding place - all CCTV cameras are back in action

Reporter:

Colin Channon

Oswestry’s award-winning CCTV network of cameras is fully operational again – and is now covering the busiest part of the town centre.

The camera which covered Willow Street – the most notorious part of town on Friday and Saturday evenings – was disabled when the wall on which it was fixed, the Get Connected shop, crumbled.

CCTV co-ordinator Jim Stafford told the annual meeting of Oswestry Town Council that the phone shop wanted a significant amount of money to allow the camera to be put back.

“A big chunk of the wall came off the shop and brought the camera down with it,” he said.

“With all the other camera sites in the town, businesses allow us to put them up because they know the benefit they bring to the town.

“But Get Connected sensed an opportunity and although we spoke with them, unfortunately negotiations broke down.

“There are instances of anti-social behaviour in Willow Street, and when we have a camera there recording what happens it is not so easy for people afterwards to give their version of events and say they were provoked, when we have a record of what actually happened.

“I am pleased to say there are a lot of people in the town who do want to help and the owners of USA Fried Chicken are letting us put a camera on their other building which is now a Turkish barbers, and the Wetherspoons pub the Wilfred Owen has done the same.

“So from now on we will have two cameras covering Willow Street.”

Mr Stafford, a retired police inspector, said a new bid had been submitted to West Mercia’s Police and Crime Commissioner’s fund to add further cameras to cover the Smithfield Road car park and the Castlefields area.

“We would also like three mobile cameras which can be deployed quickly to hot spots for crime and anti-social behaviour,” he said.

In 1999, before the CCTV cameras were installed, Mr Stafford said a crime audit showed seven out of 10 residents were afraid to go into the town centre after dark.

That has changed thanks to a sophisticated network of wireless cameras which are controlled and monitored by a team of 21 volunteers from the control room at Oswestry Police Station. The oldest volunteer will be 98 in June and the youngest is 23.

Mr Stafford said together the unpaid volunteers contribute 300 hours a month to the scheme, which is worth £27,000 a year.

“And to think in 2001 the Home Office turned us down for funding because they said a volunteer-led scheme was not sustainable,” he said.

“Since 2001 we have dealt with 10,918 incidents, which equates to about 600 a year.”

He paid tribute to Oswestry Town Council for supporting the scheme and said the three newest cameras, covering Coney Green, Oswald Road and Gatacre, had already proved worthwhile. “We have managed to move in on the boy racers who liked to use the car park in Gatacre,” he said.

Mr Stafford showed how the cameras were used to track shoplifters, but stressed they were not only used to detect crime.

For instance, they captured one incident when a cyclist fell into the path of a motorist, which proved the driver was not at fault in any way.

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