A COUNCILLOR has questioned the purpose of digital communication apparatus that has been erected in his east Cleveland ward amid concerns they are used to ‘spy’ on motorists.

Steve Kay, who represents the Lockwood ward on Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council, raised his concerns at full council after being approached by local residents.

The question about the proliferation of automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras was put to the authority’s cabinet member for community safety, Councillor Steve Goldswain.

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Coun Kay said: “If the police are spying on drivers without their knowledge, it is a matter of public concern. Moreover, this council could be complicit in secret aerial surveillance operations. I would like to know who in the authority gave permission for the police to erect these surveillance devices, as I cannot remember them being authorised by council or cabinet.”

However, Coun Goldswain reassured members that the authority was fully aware of the equipment being installed saying some of it is used as part of the council’s digital network.

He said: “During 2013, a technology refresh scheme commenced to replace old ANPR cameras. In total 65 per cent of the existing ANPR scheme remained in place with old cameras being replaced with new ones, on a one-for-one basis.

“However, due to changes in strategic operational policing requirements, some old ANPR camera locations were decommissioned being no longer viable and some new ANPR camera locations have been added.

“Cleveland Police are open about the use of ANPR across the force area, but they do not publicise the precise locations of cameras as they would be the subject of physical attack or criminals could change their routes to avoid them. This would defeat the ANPR capability.

“The focus of ANPR work is about crime and criminality and there is no general ‘spying’ upon the law abiding public.”