When we challenge councils about complaints from their residents concerning CCTV camera cars, they are at pains to point out that the cars are only there to ensure safety. It seems suspicious then, that Martin Peaple of Bexley was visited by police recently. He was presented with photographs of himself taken by a CCTV camera car 20 days earlier. You might expect they were of him committing a serious crime, something worthy of police time. Instead, they showed him ‘interfering’ with a CCTV camera car.
Mr. Peaple had been standing outside a parade of shops in Hollytree Parade in Sidcup Hill, Foots Cray on April 7, holding a notice to let people know a camera car operated in that area. He was helping out at a glass shop, and the shopkeepers had become dismayed by a lack of trade caused by the number of fines the council’s cars had been issuing. He decided to take things into his own hands, by creating a sign warning potential customers not to park there. When the CCTV car came nearby, he attempted to alert passing motorists of its existence.
During his conversation with the police officer, Mr Peaple claims he was told certain people wanted “his head on a plate” and it was confirmed that his activities were costing revenue for the council.
A council spokesman said:
“The council is unable to comment on matters dealt with by the police. The safer neighbourhood teams have been made aware of recent incidents affecting the council’s mobile CCTV civil parking enforcement operations, which have raised safety issues and in some cases resulted in civil enforcement officers being prevented from carrying out their statutory duties by non-authorised third parties.”
Despite all their protestations to the contrary from Bexley Council, well known for their controversial methods, this seems like categorical proof that the primary use of CCTV camera cars is as an additional revenue stream. If they are there to stop motorists contravening parking laws, surely Mr. Peaple is providing an admirable service to the council, at no cost to the taxpayer. Strange then, that Bexley Council would prefer to bend the law and use the police to scare him away from his low-cost public service.
Look out for our report on the use of CCTV cars, released in the next month.