HART HANDS OVER THE REINS TO CCTV

by For Fleet's Sake
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HART SET TO CHANGE THE FACE OF CCTV

There is anger and a sense of disappointment today from some local residents, as Hart District Council declare plans to outsource its local CCTV…again. Hart initially set up the local service in the early 1990’s offering a high quality service with equipment that was easy to use and quick to respond where needed. Sadly this was not to last.

By 2009, the equipment – as good as it was – had reached the end of its life. Analogue TVs and videotapes were outdated and investment was required to bring everything up to date. The cost of this wasn’t prohibitive but Hart, who were debating demolishing their council offices even back then, made the decision not to refurbish the control room and to hand the reigns over to Rushmoor instead. A bit of a blow for the local area but as nearby neighbours, it was hoped there would be no serious issues.

At the time, the camera operators moved to Rushmoor along with the new CCTV service, minimising job losses. But the good news ended there. Problems with the quality of the equipment proved it to be a bad move and the eventual need to upgrade soon saw serious decisions having to be taken about the future of Hart CCTV. Rushmoor opted out…and the buck was passed yet again.

So once more, Hart CCTV is looking for a new home. A perfect time to bring it back to the local vicinity you’d think? …but no. In fact this time it looks to be going even further away as the council plans to send it packing all the way to Runnymeade, who are looking for a five year minimum term to seal the deal.

Below: Cabinet Report on Future Provision of CCTV from Councillor James Radley. 1st October 2020.

The council may have made their mind up but there are serious concerns about the move and what it will mean for Hart. In the current setup, there is a direct radio link to Hampshire police from the CCTV team, enabling quick and easy communication when needed by either party, will this continue at Runnymede? Will Pubwatch and Shopwatch be able to be transferred over smoothly? The answers are simply unknown. There is also great concern over the loss of good working relationships between local police officers and current CCTV staff, which allows tried and trusted procedures to be put into practice as they work together as a team and produce evidence when needed. How will that fare when there is a longer journey to Runnymede to deal with? …surely it can’t be good for the efficiency of the service, or the security of Hart?

There is also the issue of the current staff having such a good local working knowledge of the area and the fact that offers huge benefits to making such a system operate effectively. The operators not only know the area, they can quickly divert resources where needed with little notice, increasing the chances of solving whatever problem it is that they have been asked to deal with. Will new staff in a different location really be able to offer the same amount of local knowledge, or will Hart suffer as a result of the move? The answer seems sadly obvious as cost cutting exercises appear to be being put before the security of local residents and with the increase in crime and antisocial behaviour in Fleet, this cannot be good news for any of us.

But surely this isn’t a decision that would be taken lightly? It would take serious consideration and feasibility studies to prove that this is a positive move for Hart, instead of the pending disaster that some see it as. How long will it take to move the system over? what will happen in the ‘learning period’ as new staff take over the reigns of the Hart area? How many more staff will Runnymede be hiring to cover the 116 new cameras they will be inheriting from Hart…or will they just be sitting there unmonitored? There are so many questions but very few real answers and as for studies into this new system, it doesn’t appear as if any have actually been carried out.

We’ve lost our police station already, we’ve handed over our CCTV to our neighbours and now we’re sending it on an even longer journey. So, as Fleet grows steadily with new building developments being added all the time, are we to be reduced to a town that has no local security of our own? It does appear that the reluctance to bring the service back to Fleet has something to do with the mysterious civic quarter development, that would include Hart knocking their offices down…but of course, as this is shrouded in secrecy, this clearly isn’t an option they consider is up for debate with local taxpayers.

Approval for this scheme is set to be discussed at tonight’s Hart District Council meeting and it’s not looking like good news for the local area. For such a well off town with taxes that are substantial to say the least, the question has to be asked…can we keep anything of our own?

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