Watford's chief inspector says CCTV plays a "key part" in convicting people carrying out crimes in the town.

Ian Grout made the comments during a meeting discussing the use of CCTV in Watford following a petition submitted to the council last year.

The petition called for enhanced CCTV in Oxhey Park after reports of sexual assaults in the area and at a full council meeting in January, it was agreed that a presentation should be made about what role CCTV plays in keeping communities safe in Watford.

At the overview and scrutiny committee meeting held on September 23 at Watford town hall, Gary Bridges, CCTV manager at Watford Borough Council, revealed there are currently 282 CCTV cameras that are operated from a control room based at Shady Lane police station in partnership with the council.

Of these 282 cameras, Mr Bridges said 78 are cameras which can be panned or tilted or zoomed, with the remaining 204 static cameras.

There are 120 CCTV cameras operating in the core shopping area of Watford High Street, with the rest dotted around the rest of the borough including at Cassiobury Park and by the football ground.

Watford Observer: The majority of Watford's CCTV cameras can be found in the heart of the town centreThe majority of Watford's CCTV cameras can be found in the heart of the town centre

Police chief inspector Grout gave four examples to the committee where CCTV has helped solve crimes or take suspects to court.

The first case study given by Chief Insp Grout was how police were able to track down a serial bike thief in Watford. The officer said ten thefts were caught on camera and officers were able to identify the suspect and arrest him in the town.

The second was a case from 2019 in which a woman was sexually assaulted in a taxi. Chief Insp Grout says they were able to track down the man responsible after cameras tracked him going into a nightclub and they were able to use the club's ID machine to find out who he was.

The third was a robbery involving a number of youths in the town. The victim was unsupportive of police action but the chief inspector said CCTV helped apprehend two of the suspects who had been causing an "awful lot of issues" around Watford.

The fourth example where CCTV has helped related to a "serious stabbing" which is currently going through the courts process.

Watford Observer: Watford police chief inspector Ian Grout speaking at the council meeting on September 23. Credit: Watford Borough CouncilWatford police chief inspector Ian Grout speaking at the council meeting on September 23. Credit: Watford Borough Council

Chief Insp Grout said CCTV can also help disprove crime. A man claimed to have been robbed at a cashpoint but footage showed he was drunk and the machine had taken his card.

Cameras also help catch purse-dippers and people guilty of drug offences.

The police chief added: "CCTV helps staff see problems before they start. CCTV is a key part of crime investigation and one we couldn’t do without."

Watford Observer:

Members of the overview and scrutiny committee asked Mr Bridges whether there were opportunities for more CCTV in Watford such as in St Albans Road and Whippendell Road.

They were told by Mr Bridges where cameras go needs to be "justified" by crime levels in the area and this was echoed by Chief Insp Grout.

The CCTV manager said there was an annual budget of £236,000 to operate cameras in Watford but there isn't a budget to install new cameras, although there is new coverage in Clarendon Road and the council is looking at installing cameras in Church Road subway near Watford Junction station.

A review of CCTV in Watford will be taking place but it will be largely focused on upgrading the current cameras in the town with some up to 10 years old.

The council's group head of community and environmental services Alan Gough said the CCTV programme in Watford is done under Home Office guidance and that cameras are placed in areas dependant on crime trends, where they may be public safety issues, and to protect property assets.