Plans for a network of CCTV cameras in Cumbria have been proposed by the county's police and crime commissioner (PCC).
Richard Rhodes' plan is for 54 cameras in Workington, Maryport, Whitehaven, Carlisle, Penrith, Kendal and Barrow.
They would be controlled by Cumbria Police from the force HQ.
The commissioner says the new system would help prevent and solve crime but opponents say it is being used as a substitute for policing.
Start-up costs of replacing the cameras, estimated at £1m, would be paid by the PCC and district councils with the day-to-day running paid for by the force.
Mr Rhodes said: "If we can't afford to man the police service in the county in the way that used to be done then we have to use technology sensibly and carefully to try to assist the constabulary.
"Many's the time when somebody will come to court and deny they've been doing something and when you call for the evidence on CCTV suddenly they change their plea," he added.
Nick Pickles, director of Big Brother Watch which campaigns against increasing surveillance, said CCTV was being used "as a substitute for policing".
"People are being sold short because all the academic research that's been published, whether it's by the Home Office or even the Met Police in London, shows that CCTV is pretty lousy at deterring crime and it's pretty lousy at catching criminals," he said.
Cumbria's CCTV network was formerly run by local councils but Mr Rhodes said many could no longer afford to monitor or maintain them.
If the new scheme is approved it could be in operation in 2014.
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