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Watching the arsonists

Use CCTV to stop arson attacks, pleads mother

A desperate mum has pleaded with the council to help stop arsonists ruining her family's summer. Carolynn Binnie - whose beach hut has been destroyed by fire-starters three times - wants CCTV installed along the seafront in Western Esplanade, Herne Bay. The 42-year-old masseuse, of Ravensbourne Avenue, Herne, says she couldn't face having to tell her two young sons - Andrew, 11, and George, nine - the hut had been burned down again. She said:

"We've been left with a feeling of dread every time we go down to the hut - we just don't know if it's still going to be there. My boys are resilient, but I don't look forward to more tears and nightmares if the arsonists target our hut again this summer. Surely installing CCTV is something the council has to do this summer. It's nonsense not to protect people's property from crime. Having cameras along the Esplanade would at least act as a deterrent and help convict those mindless individuals who choose to carry out such reckless acts."

Mrs Binnie, who suffered arson attacks in 2004, 2006 and 2009, says only two weeks ago someone had tried to start a fire less than 10 feet from her hut. She said:

"Had it caught and the wind been blowing in the wrong direction, I could again be going through the nightmare of submitting another insurance claim and having to explain to two distraught children that their playtime on the beach has been ruined. Unlike some who holiday abroad, we prefer to enjoy our local amenities and spend money ir1 the local economy on leisure. We go downto the hut about five times a week. Surely the city council must recognise this and reward us 'stay-cationers' by helping to protect our property?"

Promise of more police patrols but more cameras would be prohibitively expensive

City council spokesman Rob Davies ruled out the possibility of CCTV along the seafront:

"We understand Mrs Binnie's concerns, but with more than 700 beach huts along the whole coastline it would be prohibitively expensive to install permanent CCTV at all hut locations. In addition, there are no power sources along the coast that would allow us to run a sophisticated CCTV network. That said, there are things we can do to try and reduce vandalism at beach huts.
Mobile CCTV has already been used at Herne Bay and will be used at Tankerton as well. We have the option to use this during the summer, but this will be on an intelligence-driven basis and when it is not in use elsewhere in the district. There will be increased and more targeted police patrols, advice on hut design and security for owners and extra facilities to deter the use of huts as shelter. Foreshore Services does not grant permission for fires.

The recent incident will be discussed at the next coastal neighbourhood tasking group to make sure it does not happen again. The council and police work closely with the beach hut associations and do as much as they can to protect beach huts."

HB Gazette 29th Apr 2010

So, how do you feel about your Council Tax being used to provide security for beach huts? A sensible way of protecting a town asset, or a waste of money trying to solve someone else's problem? CCTV hasn't deterred or caught the 'boy racers' on the brightly lit Central Parade, so what's the use of CCTV footage lit only by matchlight? How about using a fraction of the cost of CCTV to fund rewards (£1,000 for example) for information leading to a conviction? Your comments, please...

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