Sunderland has slashed its spending on CCTV by more than two thirds over the last three years, according to new figures from civil liberties group Big Brother Watch.
The organisation has released figures detailing how much every local authority in the UK has spent on closed circuit TV.
They show Sunderland City Council spent £259,423 on installing, maintaining and monitoring CCTV systems between 2012 and 2015, down from £793,303 in the previous three years.
City council deputy leader Coun Harry Trueman is chairman of the Safer Sunderland Partnership and said there was still a part for CCTV to play in protecting the public.
“In recent years, CCTV has become and remains a major part of all our lives,” he said.
“CCTV can and does play a vital role in detecting and prosecuting offenders, tackling crime and anti-social behaviour, reducing the fear of crime, and helping to make our streets safer.”
The new report shows the reduction is in line with the national picture, which has seen councils move away from the use of CCTV, though some areas – notably London – have reported a rise of more than a 70% in CCTV coverage.
Big Brother Watch welcomed the reduction, but said it was the results of funding cuts, not a new awareness of civil liberties.
“While we are pleased to see a reduction in spending on CCTV, we have to understand the rationale behind the figures is not ideological,” said the organisation.
“In the 2015/2016 financial year alone, local authorities have been instructed to find £2.6billion of savings.”
The group has called for tighter regulation of cameras and for the public to be given more information on new and existing schemes.
“No register of CCTV cameras currently exists in the UK,” it said.
“This means we have no idea exactly how many cameras are present in the country. The most recent estimate, from the British Securities Industry Association, puts the number at between four and six million.
“Mid Sussex District Council recently announced a public consultation ahead of replacing their current stock of cameras.
“The council invited views on the potential expansion of the scheme, and published the location of the proposed new cameras, as well as the effectiveness of the existing ones.
“We welcome this approach as it allows the local residents to judge for themselves whether or not they think they will benefit from the suggested scheme or not.
“This kind of transparency and debate should be standard ahead of the installation of CCTV.
“After the installation of a camera, its continued use must be justified both to policy makers and members of the public. Local authorities must publish information about how often cameras under their control detect criminal activity.
“This will ensure the camera is producing the desired effect of cutting crime and is both beneficial and cost effective.”