MORE than £7m worth of CCTV cameras are to be installed on the streets of Merseyside and Cheshire after the Government yesterday approved 14 separate surveillance schemes.
Hundreds of cameras will be placed at residential crime hot spots, high street shopping centres, public transport networks and car parks across the region.
All of the North West's short-listed bids gained Home Office approval yesterday in the largest single allocation of CCTV funding ever made.
Merseyside was awarded £6.2m, with Liverpool alone receiving £4m for two city centre schemes.
In Cheshire, Chester gained the lion's share of £921,000 to fund four successful bids in the county, while Wirral was granted £358,000.
In Liverpool, a grant of almost £2.4m will provide 87 new cameras across the city, along with improved street lighting and community help points.
The city centre project alone will monitor 1,000,000 sq m, the size of 20 Wembley stadiums.
A further £1.6m will be spent focusing on shoplifting, criminal damage and disorder by upgrading existing systems in the city centre, in bus stations and in retail, cultural and educational crime hot spots.
It is hoped that the Liverpool scheme will help residents feel safer in a city where crime is 50pc higher than the national average.
In St Helens, an £872,000 scheme will expand existing systems in the town centre and other hot-spots, while in Knowsley, 41 estates will benefit from £251,000 worth of CCTV equipment.
Liverpool Airport will use a £271,500 grant to reduce vehicle crime in its car park by 30pc by 2004.
In Bootle town centre, a scheme worth almost £133,000 will monitor disorder around pubs and clubs, vehicle crime, and thefts and violence against individuals.
A £150,000 camera network in the South Road area of Waterloo will target the main Liverpool to Southport commuter line.
In Southport town centre, ten extra cameras will cover shopping thoroughfares, car parking areas and travel links.
In Wirral, communities in New Ferry, Liscard and Woodside will gain CCTV coverage when the area's existing system is extended using a £358,000 grant.
Welcoming the announcement, Merseyside's crime reduction manager, Superintendent Alan Jones, said: "CCTV is a key weapon in the fight against crime and it will help make Merseyside a safer place for all those who live and work in the area."
In Cheshire, two schemes will make Chester, which already enjoys exceptionally low crime levels, one of the safest areas in Britain.
A new £800,000 fibre-optic system linking almost 100 cameras in the city centre will soon provide vital coverage throughout shopping areas and nearby housing estates.
Another scheme worth £65,000 will fund a mobile CCTV unit to monitor rural areas across the district for the first time.
The dedicated fibre-optic loop will be used to link existing security systems in Chester together to provide 24-hour surveillance from 97 cameras.
More than 60 new cameras will come on-line at proposed sites including the main access and public transport routesas well as crime hot-spots.
Elsewhere in Cheshire, Vale Royal will gain almost £33,000 to bolster existing schemes in Northwich and Winsford, while Congleton will get more than £37,000 for a rural detection vehicle.
Graeme Gerrard, Assistant Chief Constable of Cheshire Constabulary, said: "When cameras are properly targeted they can deter offenders, reduce the level of crime and increase the feeling of safety for those using our public spaces."