‘Orwellian’ talking CCTV cameras across Northampton town centre switched off

CONTROVERSIAL talking CCTV cameras, which were introduced to Northampton town centre four years ago, have been switched off.

The talking cameras were installed in May 2007 to deter vandals, trouble makers and litter louts by barking out messages such as: “Your behaviour is being monitored by CCTV. It is being recorded and the police have been called.”

But the cameras were met with immediate criticism when they were put up, with some residents calling them ‘Big Brother gone mad’, and human rights campaign group, Liberty, saying they were a waste of money.

In reaction to the criticism, the new leader of Northampton Borough Council, Councillor David Palethorpe (Con, Billing) put an end to the cameras yesterday, by personally switching them off.

He said research carried out before May’s local elections had shown residents wanted the cameras to go.

He said: “Before the elections we asked thousands of residents to give us their views on the town centre.

“One comment we heard over and over again was that the talking CCTV was intrusive and made the town feel unfriendly.

“We want the town centre to be a vibrant place where people want to shop, relax and enjoy themselves, and this will help the town feel more friendly and welcoming.

“The talking CCTV had a bit of an Orwellian feel about it, and was not compatible with the atmosphere we want to create in the town.”

The talking camera system was installed after Northampton was given a grant of £14,450 by the Government.

Speakers were put on eight CCTV cameras in the town, including in the main shopping thoroughfare, Abington Street.

Despite being no longer used to warn people about such things as littering and skateboarding, the CCTV cameras will be retained and the speakers left in place for emergencies or to make appeals for lost children.

Councillor Palethorpe said: “Northampton has one of the best CCTV networks in the country, which will continue to look after the safety of those using the town.

“But we want visitors to feel safe, not intimidated.”

Stephen Chown is the chairman of Northampton Town Centre Ltd, a group of business leaders who are working to improve the town.

He said much of the talking cameras’ work would now be taken up by the uniformed town centre ‘hosts’ the group hopes to have on the streets soon.

Describing the talking cameras as an ‘experiment that wasn’t popular’, he said: “I realise the cameras were seen by some as intrusive and if people don’t want them, that’s fine.

“Our hosts will be there soon to offer help and advice to shoppers.

“And at the same time, they’ll keep them safe from things like people riding bikes through pedestrianised areas.”

via ‘Orwellian’ talking CCTV cameras across Northampton town centre switched off – Crime – Northampton Chronicle & Echo.

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