Calls for PCSOs to help monitor CCTV cameras in Stoke-on-Trent
POLICE community support officers could be drafted in to monitor CCTV cameras amid fears crime will rise in council cutbacks.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council is to slash its monitoring of the city's 220-strong spy camera network to save £70,000 and is calling on Staffordshire Police to step in.
The authority has again attacked the force's decision not to provide direct funding for the cameras with the cabinet member in charge branding it a 'disgrace'.
Plans to be discussed include asking police community support officers (PCSOs) to monitor the cameras when council monitoring is scaled back from April.
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But Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Matthew Ellis has criticised the council for failing to contact him before airing its concerns.
Council officers say the force uses 1,000 pieces of evidence from the city's CCTV every year and warned cuts may 'increase the level of offending' and 'damage to public property'.
A report to members states: "This reduces the cost of police investigation time, eliciting early guilty pleas by offenders so reducing the burden on the courts due to quicker trials, and allowing police officers to undertake active policing duties instead of court duties."
Councillor Andy Platt, cabinet member for city services, below, said: "Staffordshire Police uses this service a lot.
"It would cost them officers on the streets if it was not there and it's a disgrace they have not put funding into it.
"The chief executive has been to meet them over this issue and so far has not had any success.
"We are not stopping the service. It will record and will be watching.
"It's worth saying that there has not been a huge transfer of crime from the city to Newcastle where their CCTV is not monitored 24/7."
Councillor Ruth Rosenau, cabinet member for regeneration, added: "The police should be paying towards this service."
The city council is making cuts of £21.1 million and plans to cut four CCTV-monitoring posts to focus on 'priority' times.
But it is pressing ahead with a £1 million project to upgrade the cameras from VHS to digital, while a further £4.4 million is being invested to create and run a new CCTV control room and data storage centre.
Mr Ellis, Conservative PCC for Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire, said: "There is CCTV right across Staffordshire and I think there is a great possibility for greater collaboration, but it's difficult to comment further without the details.
"They have not come to me to say that they really need help with their CCTV.
"I would encourage them to talk to me.
"How am I supposed to know the issues if they don't contact me?"