CIVIL liberties campaigners have hit out at Swindon Council’s plan to link CCTV cameras across the town centre in a £100k bid to combat crime and disorder.

Swindon Council intends to use a 4G network to connect the council’s 78 cameras in car parks, five to be installed in Commercial Road, Canal Walk and Regent Street, 10 privately-owned cameras at The Parade, eight at Zurich UK Life Centre and eight at the Brunel Centre.

But national campaign group Big Brother Watch says cameras are no substitute for proper policing.

The CCTV images from most sites would be transmitted back in real time, 24/7, to the Swindon Commercial Services Limited control room at Waterside Park, at Rodbourne Cheney Industrial Estate, which already monitors cameras on housing estates.

Staff will be able to monitor the images from the Brunel cameras when the centre is closed but will have to request to access the Zurich images if there is an incident around the Tri Centre area.

Emma Carr, deputy director of Big Brother Watch, said: “Surveillance is an important tool in modern policing but it is not a substitute for policing.

“In too many cities across the country every corner has a camera but only a few ever see a police officer – Swindon is no different.

“Just because officials can watch more cameras does not mean that the streets of Swindon will be any safer.

“The council should be concentrating on how to prevent crime and joining up cameras will not achieve that, as has been demonstrated repeatedly every time a new CCTV control room is opened to much fanfare only for little to change on the streets.

“All the evidence suggests that CCTV doesn’t deter crime, and yet our councils continue to pour our money into new ways to spy on us.

“Swindon Council should justify why it is spending this money on a system by publishing crime statistics to show how effective the new system has been in catching criminals and bringing them to justice."

A Swindon Council spokesman said: “We are not linking up our town centre CCTV to spy on people.

“The cameras will be linked up to protect the public by ensuring a quick response to major incidents and to help with crowd safety during major events in the town centre such as last year’s Christmas lights switch-on and the Olympic Torch relay.

“As Big Brother Watch has also admitted, surveillance is a major tool in modern policing and our cameras will help the police to identify the perpetrators of crime, particularly during the night-time economy.

“The cameras will also utilise 4G technology to transmit high definition images to the control room, therefore greatly assisting the police in catching criminals and bringing them to justice.”

The CCTV strategy is a partnership between Swindon Council, Wiltshire Police, Swindon Community Safety Partnership, SCS and the town centre management firm InSwindon. It only covers the Business Improvement District area, but the plan is to extend it to Old Town if funding can be found.

Swindon Council is paying £100,000 for the work, which should be finished in the spring. SCS will run the scheme for free for the first year but after it is proposed that the estimated £30,000 monitoring cost should be split equally between Swindon Council, Wiltshire Police and InSwindon.


WILTSHIRE Police say CCTV is an invaluable tool in the fight against crime.

Keith Ewart, chief Inspector of Swindon operations at Wiltshire Police, said: “This scheme continues the excellent work that has already been undertaken and will provide enhanced coverage of Swindon town centre that can be operated more efficiently and effectively for the benefit of all visitors to the town centre.

“CCTV already works to deter people from committing crimes in our town and the investment in new cameras and a modern, efficient operating system sends the message to criminals that they should go elsewhere or prepare to face the consequences.

“CCTV is an invaluable tool for officers in piecing together an investigation but is not the only means available to us and we continue to provide high profile patrols within Swindon at peak demand times to deter crime and continue to work with licensees and other partners on a variety of issues to prevent and tackle crime.”

Big Brother Watch was set up in 2009 to challenge policies that threaten public privacy, freedoms and civil liberties, and to expose the true scale of the surveillance state.