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No cash to mend worn-out CCTV in Belfast's Holylands

By Michael McHugh and Joanne Fleming

Published 11/01/2016

No money is available to upgrade a worn out security camera system in a part of Belfast plagued by anti-social behaviour
No money is available to upgrade a worn out security camera system in a part of Belfast plagued by anti-social behaviour

No money is available to upgrade a worn out security camera system in a part of Belfast plagued by anti-social behaviour.

Students have angered Holylands residents in the past with outdoor drinking, violence and destruction of property.

A CCTV system was installed in March 2010 following disorder - but it has developed technical problems.

A report due to be considered by Belfast City councillors said: "None of the funders or partners of the original scheme currently have any financial resources to contribute toward the urgent upgrade needed to ensure the Holylands CCTV system operates at an acceptable level.

"PSNI, who had taken responsibility for recording and monitoring of cameras, are no longer able to do so at the original level and are only prepared to commit to recording capacity for five strategically placed cameras.

"Live monitoring of these cameras would only take place over key dates throughout the year - eg: St Patrick's Day, Freshers' and Halloween."

The review said there was reluctance to consider reinvesting in a system that has not provided tangible evidence of its impact over the years. It said security cameras were not effective in dealing with anti-social behaviour. Currently there are 12 cameras in place.

Brid Ruddy, of the College Park Avenue Residents Association, said she was dismayed at the news. She said anti-social behaviour was still at "extremely high levels". As well as noise nuisance she said there were serious incidents referred to locally as the "high jump", which involved people "kicking off wing mirrors for fun".

Ms Ruddy acknowledged that CCTV at times was "worse than useless" with cameras not working or facing the wrong direction, and said it was essential they were upgraded.

Botanic Alliance councillor Emmet McDonough-Brown said he was "quite concerned" at the CCTV report before council.

"Residents will be pretty worried," he said.

He added that there were a number of options for councillors to consider in the report, ranging from disbanding the system to investing over £100,000. He said he was supporting an upgrade costing in the region of £45,000, which would reduce the number of cameras and fix the remaining.

While acknowledging the importance of CCTV, he said other measures were also required to help affected residents.

"CCTV is a very small part of the picture," he said.

Botanic SDLP councillor Declan Boyle said councillors had to consider whether the CCTV had been value for money.

He said that while he did not have the figures to hand, he understood the problem of anti-social behaviour in the Holylands had reduced from its peak. He added that other areas of Belfast could need CCTV more urgently.

"It is a question of resources," he said.

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