London’s clean-air zone expansion hit by camera vandalism

LONDON (Reuters) – Hundreds of cameras installed on London’s roads to enforce a clean-air zone that imposes a daily charge on some motorists have been vandalised amid fierce opposition to its upcoming expansion, police said on Friday.

The Aug. 29 expansion of the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) has been championed by London Mayor Sadiq Khan as essential to bring down deaths linked to air pollution and combat climate change.

But critics say its 12.50 pound ($16) daily charge for drivers of the most polluting vehicles is unfair on thousands of motorists during a cost-of-living crisis and will cause economic damage.

London’s Metropolitan Police said it had recorded hundreds of crimes relating to ULEZ cameras, with 164 being stolen and 185 reports of cables being damaged as of Aug. 1.

Police launched an operation in April after receiving reports of theft and damage to the cameras. Purported videos of the vandalism have also surfaced online on social media platforms.

“We are working closely with Transport for London and alongside our investigation into offences already committed we are supporting them to identify new ways to prevent further cameras from being damaged or stolen,” police commander Owain Richards said in a statement.

The crimes underscore the polarising nature of the ULEZ debate in London. Last month, a legal challenge from five local authorities failed to stop it going ahead.

ULEZ was blamed for a narrow by-election defeat in outer London last month for the opposition Labour Party, which otherwise leads the governing Conservatives in opinion polls ahead of a national election expected next year.

In a bid to calm the outcry, Labour Mayor Khan this month announced 50 million pounds in additional funding to extend a ULEZ car scrappage scheme to all drivers.

($1 = 0.7871 pounds)

(Reporting by Sachin Ravikumar, Editing by Kylie MacLellan)