Sutton High Street and its two main shopping malls, the St Nicholas Centre and Times Square, have been fitted with 11 external cameras. Businesses have helped to fund the pounds 135,000 project, run with the police and probation service.
Tilt-and-zoom cameras, 60cm long, will be affixed to buildings in the three streets. They will use 160 super VHS tapes per year, which will be used for a maximum of 12 times to maintain quality and then destroyed.
The system, to be unveiled on Monday by Sir Paul Condon, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, is the most extensive in London outside of the City. The pilot scheme brings the outer London boroughs in line with cities such as Liverpool and Newcastle, which have employed CCTV with some success. In the case of the murdered boy James Bulger cameras in a Liverpool shopping precinct helped police catch two young culprits.
If successful, the project will be extended to neighbouring areas such as Cheam. It is tied in with the Safer Sutton campaign launched in January as a response to increasing juvenile crime.
Lady Olga Maitland, Conservative MP for Sutton and Cheam, told the Commons that shopkeepers had lived in terror of the 'Sutton Posse, thought to be responsible for 450 raids.
The gang, led by a 13 year old, left calling cards telling victims to dial 999. Six of them, including the leader, are in custody.
Mick Lowe, Sutton borough council's assistant chief executive, said that the council had contacted Liberty, the civil rights organisation, for guidelines on running the system. 'We are making sure everyone knows CCTV is in operation. We are putting up 48 elaborate 'friendly' signs in the town centre to let people know the cameras are there.
Council workers and the police will monitor the system. An additional monitoring room will be located in the police station.
Chief Superintendent Brian Siddle, of Sutton division, said: 'There is no hidden agenda, the public have been made aware of where the cameras are.
He underlined the need for the system. 'People are not happy at certain times of the evening going down the High Street . . . We want to get the streets back for the people.
Liberty has called for legislation to govern the operation of CCTV, including what happens to the tapes after they have been used, who has access to them, and safeguards to ensure that the material is not used for public order control where no crime is being committed.
The Home Office confirmed that guidance will be given in the autumn.
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