Northern Ireland

Enniskillen's CCTV could be switched off

Enniskillen CCTV camera
Image caption The cameras could soon be switched off

A CCTV system in Enniskillen which has helped lead to a dramatic reduction in crime could soon be switched off.

Apathy amongst the town's business community is being blamed after they failed to come up with the funds to keep the scheme running.

Fermanagh District Council has committed £17,000 towards the running costs over the next three years.

However, only 28 of the 400 local businesses have pledged their support.

The seven cameras were switched on three years ago. In the first two years recorded crime fell by 54%.

Traders have been asked to pay half of the £48,000 annual costs - between £75 and £1,500 each depending on their rates.

Pub owner Pat Blake is a member of the Enniskillen Town Traders CCTV Working Group.

"The CCTV system contributes to the general feeling of safety in the town," he said.

'Apathy'

"There is a general degree of apathy. All sorts of excuses are being put forward - some people saying they already have their own CCTV, they have their own shutters, they already have security measures in place.

"We are very disappointed that at this moment in time only approximately 20% of the necessary funding has been achieved.

"The big multi-nationals have yet to contribute, the banking organisations up and down the high street of Enniskillen have yet to contribute and they're all businesses who we feel should be contributing to the overall well-being of the town."

Gerry Ledwith, who runs the Golden Arrow Fish Shop in Townhall Street, said he was in favour of CCTV cameras but would not be paying for them.

He said most of the problems happen late at night, so pubs, clubs and food outlets should pay more.

He said he was concerned about the quality of the cameras, being one of a number of traders who have been victims of crime which the cameras did not record.

Image caption The system has been operating in Enniskillen for three years

He also cited difficult trading conditions with four businesses pulling down their shutters last week.

The demand for money for the cameras is in addition to their rates, rent, rubbish collection and Christmas lights.

A number of traders also say relationships with the local council have broken down over a number of years and that the wider problems in the town need to be addressed.

Chief Inspector David Nixon, the PSNI Fermanagh area commander, said the system benefited the police and the community.

Monitoring room staff have observed more than 2,500 incidents and the pictures have been used by the PSNI in 129 prosecution files and six police ombudsman investigations.

Between April 2009 and March 2010 they recorded 367 crimes

'Crime rise'

Chief Inspector Nixon said he feared crime would rise if the cameras were turned off.

"There is a potential in the short term for crime to rise," he said.

"People not feeling secure when they come here to shop during the day and also at night it could have a knock-on effect to the night-time economy and to tourism. It has the potential to do long-term damage. "

Enniskillen was one of 14 CCTV schemes funded by the Northern Ireland Office at a cost of £237,000.

A similar funding crisis in Lisburn saw the cameras turned off - and crime rates rise - before the city council stepped in with more money.

Fermanagh District Council has said the Traders' CCTV Working Group must establish the level of support from the business community by the end of March, otherwise the scheme will be terminated.