Birmingham city centre CCTV upgrade issues are 'causing havoc', say business leaders

Westside BID has hit out at said that the loss of live CCTV feeds has 'caused havoc' in Birmingham
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Business leaders have claimed police and street wardens in Birmingham were "working blind" at the weekend after ongoing CCTV upgrades gave them 'no access' to live camera feeds. Pete Willis, senior street warden for Westside Business Improvement District (BID), said that the loss of live feeds 'caused havoc' for the second weekend running. Mr Willis said that police were no longer able to monitor what was going on, leaving them “blind” in what was “a return to the 1970s”.

Birmingham City Council owns, manages and monitors the CCTV network. In a joint statement with West Midlands Police, the council insisted that the CCTV network “remains fully operational”, although it conceded there was some “planned disruption” during the planned upgrades. Mr Willis said: “One example was at around 2am on Sunday morning when I was called to a hotel which had ejected a guest who had been violent and was extremely intoxicated. On the hotel cameras, they saw him enter the gated car park and were worried he was going to drive off in his car. When I attended and spoke to him, he denied he was driving, but as the gate opened to let a car in, he drove off. “I immediately called Police Camera but their screens were black. All they could do was pass it onto traffic and hope he passed a police car. Previously they would have been able to follow the car on camera and alert officers to stop it. This is like going back to the 1970s!”

Mike Olley, Birmingham, WestsideMike Olley, Birmingham, Westside
Mike Olley, Birmingham, Westside
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Mr Willis said a further incident took place shortly afterwards, at around 2.45am on Sunday. He said: “We were alerted by venue security to the presence of two vehicles containing five or six occupants in each. The wardens who attended said they were clearly smoking drugs, but again the police couldn’t see them. When wardens approached them, they drove off along Broad Street. If the cameras had been working as they should, they would have picked them up and known exactly where they were heading. “There were also numerous confrontations called through to Police Camera but the only response was to see if there were any officers nearby, as they could not see anything on CCTV screens. Previously, they would be able to turn the camera round, monitor the situations and gain evidence if needed.”

Lawrence Barton, who is Birmingham’s first nighttime economy champion, a role created by the city council, said: “It is shocking and disappointing to find that the issue with CCTV has not been resolved as we were promised by local authorities last week. “We demand the police and council collaborate immediately to solve this issue today for the safety of all in our city.” Mike Olley, general manager of Westside BID, added: “This is a complete fiasco that has put public safety has been at risk."

Mr Olley added: “If the council cannot do its job of managing the CCTV network well enough, they should pass the responsibility on to more responsible organisations. Westside BID will happily take the budgets to look after this vital issue, and we will do it properly.”

CCTV in BirmnghamCCTV in Birmngham
CCTV in Birmngham

What has Birmingham City Council said in response?

This is a joint response from Birmingham City Council and West Midlands Police – and please note that the city’s CCTV network remains fully operational and fully monitored 24/7 by experienced and professional CCTV operators.

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"Birmingham City Council owns, manages and monitors the city’s CCTV network 24 hours a day, every day, working with a range of partners, including West Midlands Police, to keep citizens across Birmingham safe. Partnership working is a core part of the city’s operation, the council’s CCTV team has direct links into West Midlands Police and a range of partners, in addition to conventional communication channels with the emergency services, to ensure all the command and control rooms in the city are connected and our responses are co-ordinated and supported. "CCTV has a significant benefit on the safety of our communities and these systems are currently being upgraded to improve the quality of the council’s CCTV network. During this work, there will be planned disruption to how live CCTV feeds are transmitted, which is being kept to a minimum by our technical partners, however some disruption is inevitable during upgrades of this nature.

"Citizens and businesses should be reassured that the city’s CCTV network remains fully operational, with cameras fully monitored 24/7 by experienced and professional CCTV operators. The council continues to work with partners, including West Midlands Police, to ensure any planned disruption is kept to an absolute minimum. "It will ensure the network remains fully compliant with legislation, has all the relevant agreements and safeguards in place to ensure the CCTV network fully meet public expectations, protecting citizens’ freedoms, privacy, and our collective priority to keep citizens safe and reduce crime."

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