A complaint has been made that new CCTV cameras in Keswick town centre are posing a threat to local residents’ privacy.
The powerful high-tech CCTV system cost £18,000 and was installed shortly before Christmas in a bid to offer improved surveillance for Cumbria police and to help catch criminals and prevent crime.
But it came with a warning from Councillor Peter Terry, who was the only member of Keswick Town Council not to vote in favour of the installation, which involves two cameras on opposite sides of Main Street; one outside John Young’s store and the other high on a lamp-post outside the Fat Face shop.
Mr Terry had expressed concerns over potential privacy issues posed by police officers or other camera operators with access to footage looking into local people’s homes or hotel accommodation on or off Market Square.
Colleagues dismissed what they referred to as his fears about “peeping Tom policemen in Penrith control room” as they backed the system.
Now Mr Terry has told The Keswick Reminder: “There has been at least one complaint to the council about the new CCTV installation prying into private accommodation.
“This sort of response was just what I was worried about. There was a complaint from a resident living in a flat in Market Square that the cameras can look into their private accommodation.
“Sadly this is something that I foresaw and it disturbed me when I first heard of the intention to install the cameras.
“It is my contention that just the effect of seeing a camera pointed in the direction of private accommodation is an intrusion of personal space and liberty and should not be acceptable.”
He had called for the cameras to be designed so they couldn’t see above shop front level, adding: “The cameras’ installation was to identify street level disturbance and perpetrators.
“However I am told that the police do not want to restrict the tilt angle as they would wish to see the full building should somebody attempt to scale its frontage.
“This I find a very dubious argument and would like to know the incidences of such events happening and as such where it has aided crime detection and or prevention.”
Mr Terry had been invited to Cumbria police headquarters to see the CCTV control centre but has been unable to do so because of COVID restrictions.
“When I do visit I will want to see a demonstration of the square’s cameras,” he said.
Keswick’s new high-tech cameras are so powerful they can identify a face from hundreds of yards away. Their aim is to help police trace offenders and secure prosecutions in court with videos and images for street crimes such as public disorder, theft or drug-dealing.
In a previous response to Mr Terry’s concerns, Cumbria police had assured the town council that checks and controls were in place for the system to avoid any “inappropriate or inadvertent intrusions” by their operators.
There was also a digital device, known as screening, on the camera to block windows or other private areas such as gardens, hotels and holiday lets.
This cannot be removed by police officers or staff without permission of the camera operating company.