Heated row following plea to reinstate live CCTV monitoring to 'keep women safe'

A heated row has broken out over reinstating live CCTV monitoring in Gosport after a petition garnered more than 1,400 signatures in two weeks.
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A women’s group fears for people’s safety at night and has called for the service to be brought back – but Gosport Borough Council has said it cannot afford the £200,000 cost for the 24/7 service. Council leader Councillor Peter Chegwyn (Lib Dems, Forton) told Women Supporting Women that “safety on our streets is something some of us feel passionate about” and supported the campaign – but still refused to bring back the live monitoring which was quietly axed in October 2022 after a joint arrangement with Fareham Borough Council ended.

In the heated three-and-a-half-hour-long full council meeting on Wednesday (February 7), where mayor Martin Pepper had to tell some councillors to calm down, Cllr Chegwyn suggested the police and crime commissioner should foot the bill instead. Carmen Lea, of Women Supporting Women, asked Cllr Chegwyn why her e-petition was not being supported, despite having twice as many signatures as his campaign for purchasing a ‘dilapidated’ Gosport theatre and bingo hall, The Criterion, which will see £1.2 million investment.

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She said her e-petition to reinstate live monitoring of CCTV in Gosport had 1,417 valid signatures in two weeks, whereas the Criterion had 821 signatures in six weeks. Councillors heard there are 44 cameras in operation that are still recording 24/7, with the records kept for 28 days and reviewed once a week. CCTV only covers two or three per cent of the borough.

A peaceful protest over the issue was held before the meetingA peaceful protest over the issue was held before the meeting
A peaceful protest over the issue was held before the meeting

Ms Lea believes darkness is more of a threat, with Hampshire County Council currently considering making cuts to street lighting. The petition said: “All society must ensure women and girls feel safe going about their lives. Four out of five women feel unsafe walking alone after dark in a park or other open public space. Disabled people feel less safe walking alone in all settings than non-disabled people.”

Councillor Zoe Huggins (Con, Alverstoke) said live monitoring is about street safety, reassurance and preventing knife, drug and other crime, something you cannot put a price on. Councillor John Gledhill (Con, Lee West) said: ”Please let’s go back to 24/7 monitoring or 84-hour monitoring. It’s not going to solve every crime but as an ex-copper, CCTV is a very valuable tool.”

Cllr Chegwyn agreed CCTV live monitoring was a good tool for tracking missing and vulnerable people. Cllr Kevin Casey (Con, Alverstoke) said the council has no power over police or lighting but they can do something about live monitoring of CCTV cameras.In July 2021 with Fareham Borough Council pulling out of a joint agreement with Gosport Borough Council, CCTV live monitoring was reduced to 84 hours, costing £82,500 per year. In October 2022 the live monitoring was stopped by GBC. Councillor Zoe Huggins (Con) said the information about the CCTV live monitoring coming to an end at the end of the contract wasn’t in the public domain until September 2023.

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Ms Lea said after the meeting: “It’s still not clear what is going to happen. But I really feel very strongly about it. We need to prioritise safety over skips. Safety is of paramount importance. And we need to start doing something and show younger people that we can fight to change things. If we get 1,500 signatures it will be debated.”