The system, opened yesterday at a cost of pounds 360,000 of public and private sector funds, is the largest closed circuit television network in Britain providing colour pictures to security guards.
It incorporates 20 cameras using artificial light to maintain 24-hour transmission from city centre streets. Pictures are transmitted to the security company's headquarters. Merseyside police may also view the pictures from two control rooms.
The area scanned by cameras forms the main part of a police division where crime rose 1.6 per cent in the first five months of 1994, compared with the same period of 1993. Crime throughout Mer seyside decreased by 4.3 per cent, but police sources said crime in the city centre is lower than in surrounding districts. Most offences are committed out of sight of the new cameras.
A total of 5,954 criminal offences were reported between January and May in the division including the city centre, compared with 7,131 in the division covering north Liverpool, in which there are no public security systems.
The city centre recorded more crime than north Liverpool in only three categories. There were 175 street muggings and other thefts from the person, 106 more than north Liverpool, but only 2.9 per cent of all city centre crime.
Police say cameras will deter street crime. But shoplifting, which represented 13 per cent of city-centre crime, will not be observed by the system, which focuses on streets. Police fear the network will turn criminals away from the largely- pedestrianised shopping and recreational centre to peripheral car parks, most of which which are unseen by cameras.
Caught on film, page 19