A study of English and Welsh authorities by the local authority associations and the Local Government Management Board shows that town centre CCTV now tops the table of community safety activities most commonly used by councils. Other key activities include housing estate improvements and diversionary holidays for young people.
But despite Home Office minister David Maclean last week launching the latest £15 million CCTV challenge fund competition, the survey shows that authorities still largely rely on mainstream funding to cover the costs of community safety work.
CCTV challenge cash ranks fourth behind the revenue support grant - cited by two-thirds of authorities - the single regeneration budget and commercial sponsorship in terms of funding for crime-beating initiatives.
The absence of a statutory role for councils in community safety is another barrier, and one which has made it difficult for the associations to discover precisely how much councils - mindful of the district auditor - are spending on community safety.
But councils do have specific statutory powers to fund CCTV schemes. Evidence that the government regards cameras as central to countering crime came as Mr Maclean announced that partnerships involving local authorities would be able to apply for up to £150,000 each in the third round of CCTV challenge funding.
Round one saw more than 100 winners share £5m in March 1995, while in June this year more than 250 bidders divided £15m. Bids for the third round must be in by 20 November.
Over the next three years, ministers aim to have an extra 10,000 cameras on the streets.
Meanwhile, Dundee City Council has won the biggest share of £2m of Scottish Office funding for CCTV schemes.
The authority will receive £189,000, with the rest of the cash going to 31 other projects.
-- Copies of the Survey of community safety activities in local government in England and Wales are available from the LGMB Publications Department, Arndale House, Arndale Centre, Luton LU1 2TS. Price: £5 (local authorities), £10 (other organisations).