FEARS are growing that criminals are becoming smart to the limitations of the CCTV in Horsham town centre.
This week the surveillance system has been branded ‘useless’ by one jeweller and pointless by a gift shop owner, while an optician says it’s too ‘blurry’.
Dirk Bollwerk, of Dixey CB Opticians, fell victim to vandalism when thieves stole letters from his £1,500 shop sign, snatching the light-up ‘A’ and ‘O’ in the word ‘Opticians’.
Mr Bollwerk told the County Times that CCTV footage of the ‘O’ theft was recovered, but it was too ‘blurry’ to make out the culprits.
“It showed two blokes on a Sainsbury’s trolley and one was standing in it to reach the sign, but we were told it was too blurry to identify them,” he said.
“The trouble is when you’re a business in the high street and have to pay so much towards taxes and licences this is very frustrating. You wonder if it’s all worth it.”
However, the business owner added that he had had to learn ‘to laugh about it’.
“What are you going to spell with O and A?” he questioned. “They’d have to be pretty creative.”
“Although, if I saw someone nick it I would have their nuts.”
Business partner Irene Cheesman added: “We feel like Swan Walk is very secure and we’re left out in the dark. We’re definitely more vulnerable.”
Meanwhile, thieves have also been targeting discount goods store Street Value, also in West Street, since it opened last year.
Manager Ricky Juneja said: “Someone gave me a fake £20 note and ran off the other day, but nothing was done about it.
“What’s the point of having CCTV cameras there if you can’t figure out who’s been stealing?
“The police kept saying they would get more officers on patrol but I haven’t noticed the difference.
“What we need is more cameras and a greater presence of officers on the street.”
Mr Juneja said thieves were striking more often on Thursdays under the busy atmosphere of the Horsham markets.
East Street jewellery trader John Cox, of Trelfers, also criticised the CCTV surveillance, calling it ‘useless’.
He said: “Whenever something happens in the street at night time the camera is always looking away. The CCTV is useless. That’s why most of the premises here have their own systems in place.
“Over time we’ve had people trying to break in from the roof, the rear, so we take every reasonable care to deter and make it as hard as possible for thieves.
“Perhaps a camera with three viewing heads and a wider angle would work better. But that costs a lot of money.”
Gill Buchanan, chairman of Horsham Unlimited, the town centre business partnership, admitted the group were ‘unaware of retailers’ concerns regarding the CCTV system in West Street or any issues that Sussex Police had with the current set up’.
She said: “The security of the town centre is important to us all and should there be any issues or opportunities to improve cover, detection rates and safety perception, we would be very keen to work with West Sussex County Council and Sussex Police.”
Anyone with information regarding the letter theft from Dixey Opticians can contact 101 quoting serial 0770 10/01/2012.