CCTV bid to combat cliff fall tragedies

The cliffs at Marsden
The cliffs at Marsden

CCTV camera coverage is giving emergency services early warning of potential cliff tragedies in South Tyneside.

The equipment been installed as part of a  drive by South Tyneside Council  to prevent suicide attempts along the South Shields coast.

Phil Brown who has campaigned fopr safety measures on the cliffs for a number of years welcomed the move.

He said: “Installing the cameras is a positive step and it’s something I welcome.

“I have raised it when I have had previous meetings regarding cliff safety and while I don’t know where the cameras have been situated I would like to think they have taken on my suggestions.”

He added: “It is a good thing they are doing. It’s definitely a bonus to know a part of the area is going to be monitored.”

The camera scheme came to light at South Tyneside Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Coordinating and Call-in Committee yesterday as part of a performance review on crime and disorder.

All councils are required to scrutinise the operation of their community safety partnerships.

It is used to monitor the cliffs and allow officials to spot anyone whose behviour gives cause for concern.

Acting lead officer for community safety at South Tyneside Council, Andy Bailey, said the camera has thermal imaging capability so it can be used at night.

He said the system provides a “full view” at night and covers the coastline.

He said that, while the cliffs attract many tourists, there is a  “tragic situation in the borough” where some visitors “have thoughts of committing suicide.”

Mr Bailey, who is also South Tyneside Council’s CCTV and community warden coordinator, said the camera is “proactively monitored” and has a direct radio link to aid early intervention by emergency services.

He added that mobile phone app Pokemon Go had been  a “big issue” with GPS-signed ‘pokestops’ attracting some app users close to the cliff edge.

Coun Joe Amar welcomed the new camera while Coun Moira Smith said suicides were a “big problem” in the area, with people visiting the cliffs from other parts of the region.

She added: ” South Tyneside Council has some very eagle eyed staff who do a fantastic job”.

A spokeswoman for South Tyneside Council said: “As part of the council’s whole-community approach to suicide prevention we are committed to working with partners, communities, groups, mental health services and individuals to tackle this issue.

“CCTV cameras are deployed at various locations across the borough to enhance public safety.

“Cameras are a useful tool in providing an early alert to the emergency services to allow them to provide timely intervention to people in crisis.”