CCTV cameras were needed to counteract anti-social behaviour in some housing estates, a Fine Gael councillor claimed this week, saying some private landlords didn’t care about the behaviour of their tenants or the condition of the houses as long as they were paid their rent.
Speaking at a meeting of the Joint Policing Committee at County Hall, Cllr Leo Walsh called for funding “to install CCTV cameras in all housing estates where the Council has rented accommodation and to extend to housing estates where the Council has ongoing anti-social behaviour”.
County councillors, Cllr Walsh said, were inundated with complaints from people paying large mortgages in estates where private tenants were causing problems. “The trouble going on in housing estates is gone out of control,” he argued. He conceded that Limerick County Council tenants were vetted. However, he said, the problem lay with private landlords, he said – and neither they nor the HSE, who pay rent supplement for tenants in private houses, were taking responsibility.
But Jimmy Feane, the Director of Housing for Limerick County Council, said he had a problem with the wording of the motion. “”Why would Limerick County Council be taking the burden on itself of funding CCTV where we have no presence?”, he asked.
The Council, he continued, had installed CCTV in three of its estates where there had been problems and these estates had been “turned around” by a combined effort by the Gardai, the residents and the council. And it was his contention that such an approach was the way forward.
The head of the Limerick Garda Division, Chief Superintendent David Sheahan agreed with Mr Feane. “In dealing with serious crime, we would be absolutely lost without the presence of CCTV,” he said. Cameras, he added, played an enormous role in detecting and solving crime. “There are some estates that do require CCTV,” he added but it was not feasible to install them in every estate. In estates experiencing anti-social behaviour, there needs to be interaction between the local authority, residents and Gardai, he said. “I think using ASBOs could be looked at first before we start going down the route CCTV all around the place.”
Cllr Tomas Hannon (Lab) said he did not agree with Cllr Walsh’s motion, saying: “The biggest problem we have is absentee landlords. We don’t know where they are.” Anti-social behaviour often came down to a lack of facilities in estates and any money for cameras could be “better spent” on providing these. He argued also that all responsibility for housing should rest with local authorities and private landlords should be registered with their local authority.
Cllr Jerome Scanlan said the planning section needed to have an “inventory” of houses. “In Newcastle West, 48 per cent of the properties are in private rental – and one in three of those people in the estates don’t know who the houses are owned by.” CCTV, he continued, should be on a “needs” basis. “We cn’t take out a sledge-hammer to crack a nut.”Mr Feane reminded the meeting that Limerick County Council had twice called on the Department of the Environment to make the local authorities the single authority responsible for housing. He also pointed out that the HSE did not have the legal powers to do what some councillors wanted. “If Limerick County Council were to take over screening tomorrow we would be hamstrung by the legislation. Also Limerick County Council cannot screen people for the HSE. We legally can’t do it.”
No vote was taken on the motion.