The start of CCTV being used to check the use of masks

Kettering’s CCTV network is being used to monitor whether drinkers are social distancing and if shoppers and bus passengers are complying with face mask requirements.

3 Lions Security – the private operator that runs Kettering Borough Council’s CCTV network – is recording incidents at the weekends and giving a full report to environmental health officers who are then using the intelligence to crack down in hot spot areas and venues that are breaking Covid-19 rules.

Police can now give out fines of £200 to those not wearing face coverings in required places such as shops and while using public transport – with the fine doubling for repeat offences up to a maximum penalty of £6,400.

At last night’s (Oct 5) Kettering forum meeting environmental health officer Russ Howell gave an update of what his team, along with the council’s wardens, Northamptonshire County Council staff and police have been doing to try and ensure businesses and the public comply with the government’s coronavirus laws and guidelines.

He said: “The rapidity of legislative change and the production of guidance has been incredible in the last six months.

“It has been challenging but I think we have done a pretty good job.

“We have been using the CCTV system certainly in the night-time economy as a more effective way of what is going on. Because none of us can be there all of the time.

“CCTV has been our eyes on the ground throughout Friday and Saturday nights especially in terms of telling us where we neded to be and who we needed to be talking to.

“We have also had the police in the town centre giving us information on what is going on – and feeding us information from members of the public. We are getting our intelligence from all over the place in terms of dealing with our businesses.

“We are working closely with Kettering Pub Watch and we appreciate how difficult it’s been for the pubs. It has been really difficult for them to be able to open and operate in a way that has been viable. In recent weeks it has become more challenging with the 10 o’clock closing – but we understand why that has to happen.

“Police have been working with wardens based on intelligence from CCTV. We had them monitor the buses and the passengers getting off the buses and going in and out of the town centre.

“That has given us some idea of where we need to go to enforce the face coverings requirement. You will be seeing more partnership with police and wardens in terms of dealing with those particular issues.”

The town’s CCTV network is due to be upgraded by wifi cameras in coming months which give a much clearer picture.

Inspector Rob Offord said police community support officers had been doing spot checks on buses and weren’t finding many people who are not complying with the face mask rules. He also said police had to be careful when challenging those not wearing a mask as some people had legitimate health reasons for not doing so.

Between March 16 and September 16 the council’s environmental health team visited 360 businesses which have been reported for coronavirus breaches. Two prohibition notices have been given – to the Aqua nightclub and a gym in the town centre.

The environmental health team has also had a role in hand delivering track and trace letters to Kettering residents who the county’s public health tracing team has not been able to get in touch with by phone.

The small team, which is made up of just 3.6 full-time officers, was thanked by councillors for the huge amount of additional work they have taken on since the pandemic began.

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