New CCTV Camera on Fen Road

Thursday, December 13th, 2018. 2:12pm

It’s amazing that we need such extraordinary civic engineering to keep a CCTV camera safe from vandals in Cambridge. A street-lighting column was removed, a new, taller, pole was installed in its place, a replacement street-light was reinstalled part way up, and a CCTV camera has been placed at the top, above the street-light.

Councillors have been very slow getting the replacement camera deployed. As a result of the vandalism of the previous camera Fen Road was without a CCTV camera, which councillors had decided to install, for a year or so. It’s disappointing that councillors let vandals have such an impact on their tactics for dealing with criminality in the area.

While we don’t know the motivation for the vandalism I can understand people opposing the use of CCTV in residential areas, they are very intrusive. As a result of this camera being in-place the state is collecting records of thousands of people’s movements and activities. If instead of vandalising the camera those concerned had attended a council meeting and used the public speaking slot to share their concerns they may well have gained support and more could be done to ensure the council’s use of these cameras, and the data collected from them, is proportionate, and ensure everyone can find out, how, and why, they are being used.

With the prospect of congestion charging being raised again in Cambridge, which might involve the installation of many more cameras on the city’s streets, we should have a public debate on the degree of state-surveillance we’re happy with.

You only have to spend a few minutes on Fen Road to observe dangerous use of the road, including by drivers of heavy vehicles and vehicles towing trailers. I’d like to see police constables policing the road in-person. It’s important that we treat everyone equally under the law and that behaviour which wouldn’t be tolerated elsewhere isn’t tolerated on and around Fen Road.

The new Chisholm Trail cycle and walking route is due to cross Fen Road, within the new camera’s field of view. Thousands more vulnerable road users are due to be using, and crossing, Fen Road soon. We need to make the road significantly safer; both through changes to the physical infrastructure and tackling the attitudes of those in the area who appear to think it’s acceptable to drive dangerously. It’s not just the use of road that poses a danger in the Fen Road, there’s wider criminality, and dangerous dogs too.

There are lots of questions about the new camera’s capabilities and how it will be used. The council hasn’t revealed if it’s capable of reading number-plates, and if it will be used to check insurance and MoT details for example. The council has said the feed from this new camera will not be continually monitored or live-streamed to the CCTV control room. I’d like to know why that is, and if it’s a policy decision or if there’s a problem with the new cameras councillors have purchased. Until recently police staff had to travel to Huntingdon to view CCTV footage from Cambridge; it would be good to know if this process has been improved yet.

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