CHESTER will become a safer place to walk at night if a bid for £800,000 to improve CCTV monitoring is approved.
The city council is expecting to hear shortly whether a grant bid to the Government has been approved. It has already been enthusiastically endorsed by Government Office North West.
But Mike East, who heads the city council's corporate resource unit and is masterminding CCTV development, warned it is not a complete answer to city centre security.
He said: 'Enhanced provision of CCTV is important but should be seen as just part of a much broader response being developed by the Community Safety Partnership in response to crime and disorder issues in Chester.'
Chester Community Safety Partnership plans are for an £800,000 monitoring system to provide security coverage in shopping areas and housing estates, with a fibre-optic system, 12 new cameras and repositioning of two existing units, more than doubling resources.
Chester has already secured £65,000 for a CCTV co-ordinated central control centre, introduction of CCTV cameras in Princess Street and Gorse Stacks car parks and improved CCTV on the Little Roodee, St Anne Street and Northgate Street car parks.
At present CCTV surveillance is carried out by the police, county council, Grosvenor Precinct and Chester and District Housing Trust. There are eight city centre cameras and five covering urban traffic control.
Mr East said: 'Coverage is discontinuous and fails to provide coverage of some known crime hot spots.
'The city centre suffers from a high level of incidents and crime, notably crimes of violence, car crime, youth disturbance and disorder, theft, general disorder and robbery.
'There is a high level of nuisance and anti-social behaviour and evidence that these problems dissuade residents from visiting the city centre, particularly at night.'
If the current bid is successful, a dedicated fibre-optic network, owned by the city council, would be installed, saving money currently paid by all CCTV operators to British Telecom and offering the prospect of greater co-ordination of surveillance.
Also part of the bid is a mobile CCTV unit, specifically to target rural crime across the district and to target crime and anti-social behaviour hot spots, using three colour pan and zoom cameras to monitor problem areas outside the city's CCTV area, transmit images directly to the police control room and allow for rapid deployment and more effective use of resources.
City council leader and chairman of the Community Safety Partnership John Price (Lab) said: 'Crime in Chester is relatively low in comparison with other areas of the country. But there are significant issues and crime hotspots that need to be tackled.'