A coalition of community associations and politicians led by a Bloomsbury resident has made a £425,000 bid to install CCTV and create a ‘digital neighbourhood watch’ across Camden’s Central London area.
The chairs of the Safer Neighbourhoods Panel for the Bloomsbury, Kings Cross, Holborn and Covent Garden Wards, have won the backing of a number of high-profile associations and individuals in their campaign against Central London street crime over the past three years.
Bloomsbury resident David Marchant has been one of the driving forces behind the campaign to fight street crime. He is also on the committee for Bloomsbury Residents’ Action Group and the Bloomsbury Association.
The funding application recently secured the backing of MP Keir Starmer and AM Andrew Dismore in the bid to the Safer Streets Funding 2021 scheme. The bid itself was made by Camden Council, and was supported by the Fitzrovia Partnership, Holborn BID, and over two dozen businesses and community associations.
If successful, the grant could be used to install CCTV in a number of crime hotspots across Bloomsbury, King’s Cross, Fitzrovia, and Covent Garden, while also creating a ‘digital neighbourhood watch’ where residents can record and report crime online and receive feedback from officers via the network.
Mr Marchant believes this could prove vital in getting crime rates down in the Central London area, which are some of the highest in the country.
The outcome of the bid will be decided in the coming weeks.
Fighting Crime with Data
Mr Marchant has been a long-term advocate for installing a CCTV network across Central London to help police officers identify and track offenders and produce statutory evidence against those committing crimes on London’s streets.
Despite the wards of Bloomsbury, King’s Cross, and Holborn & Covent Garden only comprising a small proportion of Camden’s geographic area and population, it accounts for over half of ‘acquisitive crime’ committed in Camden (55%). This is a type of offence where the offender derives material gain from the crime, and includes theft, fraud, and robbery.
It is thought the high figure is driven by the proportionately large number of individuals on Central London’s streets in normal times. While the resident population of the three southern wards is about 25,000, around 20,000 people visit the British Museum every day in normal times.
And while Camden already has about 800 cameras installed in a borough-wide network, these are confined to council estates rather than the public realm.
Mr Marchant has been advocating extending this network using wireless CCTV cameras, which would tune in to the existing network via a radio connection. This would both minimise installation costs and leave operators open to moving cameras around in the future, prolonging their use and increasing sustainability.
Costs for CCTV vary in estimation between £1,500 and £4,000 per camera. The campaign team is initially aiming to have 25-50 cameras installed across the Central London area, which comprises roughly 50 miles of streets. The costs will be relatively low because Camden has already set up a network and control centre to monitor those cameras.
This control centre is manned at all hours and has a seat reserved for the Metropolitan Police, who have reported it as already proving useful.
‘A Digital Neighbourhood Watch’
The Fitzrovia Partnership have championed the idea of using part of the funding to set up a ‘digital neighbourhood watch’, which will allow residents to record and report crime on a centralised website and mobile application. It is understood that residents and officers will then be able to view each other’s reports, with officers providing updates on the site.
It is believed that residents often refrain from reporting incidents of crime because they don’t receive any ‘feedback’ from officers following the report, leading them to believe that little or nothing has been done.
Concerns have also been raised that in areas of the highest crime, such as around Argyle Square and Euston Road, residents report very little to the police because they ‘see no point’ or because it would ‘take too long’. It means that these areas show up on statistics as being some of the safest in the area, resulting in few police resources being allocated to those places and further engendering crime ‘blind spots’.
It is hoped that allowing residents and officers to communicate about incidents of crime will reassure the community that action is being taken and motivate them to report crime incidents more thoroughly and regularly.