Hundreds of roadside surveillance cameras installed to enforce the stalled Greater Manchester clean air zone have been used by police to help solve two murders, fatal hit and run crashes, a drugs case and other crimes, councillors have heard.
The 407 Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) live cameras installed for the scheme, the vast majority of which are unlikely to be used for the purpose they were installed, are costing Transport for Greater Manchester £375,000 per month in electricity bills, councillors said.
A meeting of Bolton council heard the ANPR cameras were installed across the region, including 86 in Bolton, ahead of plans for a Greater Manchester wide clean air charging zone. After the infrastructure and signs were installed, Greater Manchester Combined Authority changed tack, favouring an ‘investment led’ approach to air quality improvements, which would mean no charging for non-compliant vehicles apart from possibly in Manchester city centre.
The information about the live cameras being used by police in crime investigations emerged after a question from Horwich councillor David Grant.
He said: “Now that the mayor of Greater Manchester has graciously confirmed that the area of Bolton will most like not be subject to any clean air zone can the leader confirm that he intends to demand that the presumably now defunct cameras be removed?
“Secondly, bearing in mind these cameras are live and drawing electricity from our street furniture, will he be requesting a payment for electricity estimated Greater Manchester wide at £375,000 a month?”
Bolton Council leader, Martyn Cox, replied: “Based on current evidence it is highly unlikely that Bolton will be required by the Government or GMCA to implement a charging clean air zone so the camera infrastructure would not be needed to enforce it.
“Until a decision has been made by the Government on an investment led non-charging plan it would be premature to dismantle the infrastructure including the cameras and sign-age. Information from the ANPR cameras is closely controlled but personal data requests from law enforcement agencies have been received.
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“The latest information is that the ANPR cameras have been use to good effect in detecting crime.
“Information released in line with data protection legislation has been used to support at least two murder investigations, one high risk missing person case, one county lines drug supply case, two separate fatal road traffic collisions where the offending vehicles have failed to stop at the scene and an aggravated burglary.
“However, it is acknowledged that there are concerns around the use of ANPR cameras and allowing direct access to the cameras to organisations such as GMP when these are no longer required for a charging clean air zone.
“There is a commitment ot undertake public consultation on the future use of cameras once we have a decision from central government on the investment led clean air plan. In relation to the electricity costs, I can conform that all cost for the 86 cameras in the borough are paid for by Transport for Greater Manchester.”