A POLICE officer responsible for reducing crime in Ilkley has slammed a decision not to install CCTV in the town, saying residents "deserve to feel safe."

Earlier this year Ilkley residents handed a petition to Bradford Council calling for cameras in the town centre. Ilkley is currently the only town in the district without CCTV coverage, and residents had argued that rising crime rates meant coverage was needed.

But yesterday the Council's decision making executive dismissed the suggestion, saying it would be too costly, and that Ilkley didn't have the crime rates to justify the investment.

Richard Gelder, Highways Services Manager, told the meeting that for full coverage, around 10 CCTV cameras would be needed in Ilkley. This would cost |around £100,000, but he said with there would also be ongoing running costs.

He said: "If we look at a town of a similar size, Shipley has, on average 275 crimes per month. In Ilkley there are 71. There are significant differences in anti social behaviour levels and violent crimes."

Councillor Anne Hawksworth (Ind, Ilkley) told the meeting that there had been a spike in criminal incidents in the town centre in recent weeks, and this made the Council's report "out of touch." She added: "This report has no reference to the high number of brawls in the town centre recently, or the fact that police have been called out every weekend for the last five or six weeks.

"Ilkley has recently suffered from an explosion of bars and a big rise in the night time economy. It seems like the relaxation of the licensing laws all those years ago has only just hit Ilkley, and it has hit quite intensely.

"You are getting people coming to the town centre, finding a secluded spot and getting quite a few tinnies down them before heading off to the bars."

She said when the first CCTV cameras were installed in the district in the early 00s, they were not needed in Ilkley. She added: "There was no need to have them as you felt safe walking through the town at night. That is not the case now.

"Residents have noticed a vast difference in the town in the last 12 months."

Council leader Susan Hinchcliffe said: "We all love Ilkley, it is an important part of the district. But the report shows there were much fewer incidents than in other areas."

Alex Ross Shaw, executive for Regeneration, Planning and Transport Portfolio, said he would work with businesses and police in Ilkley to make the town a safer place.

The decision has also been criticised by Ilkley's Early Intervention and Prevention officer PC Sam Hollings, who was part of the group that handed the petition to the Council in March. On hearing that CCTV would not be installed, he said: "It seems clear that the report was written with the sole purpose of sinking the proposal as opposed to assessing feasibility, scale or requirement.

"I understand there is an issue with funding but no further work was done to suggest how that may be addressed or what is really required which seems the obvious next step.

"It’s just not that expensive in the grand scheme and not anything which should be of great concern to the honest taxpaying public who deserve parity across the Bradford District. People deserve to feel safe in this town and it’s clear to me that some people don’t at the moment, I have to try and make that right and I asked for help in doing it.

"I think the upturn in crime and antisocial behaviour over the last three months more than justifies the serious consideration of a limited and researched installation that might serve the town for years to come. Bradford Council has only looked at online crime statistics which are not current and do not represent where we are at the moment in the town."