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When a London borough merged and upgraded separate surveillance systems it meant its the control centre could monitor six times as many cameras as before.
Islington is home to around 215,000 people, making it the highest density local authority in the UK. The borough features the Emirates Stadium, Arsenal Football Club, pictured; and more licensed premises per square mile than anywhere else in the UK – 13,000 in total, more than a third of which are allowed to sell alcohol 24 hours. The CCTV is for public safety, and preventing crime and anti-social behaviour (ASB), and investigating incidents – particularly in districts affected by gangs, drugs and alcohol. Sean Tuckey, CCTV crime and disorder manager for Islington Council, said: “Just over a year ago we moved to a new state-of-the-art control room, prior to which we already had an excellent detection rate. But we wanted to do more, and there are several key features of our upgraded surveillance system that are already making a big difference.”
Before moving to the new control centre, footage from 165 public space cameras – linked by 17km of fibre optic backbone cable – could be viewed, controlled and recorded by operators using Synectics’ Synergy command and control software. It provided live incident tracking, prioritised supervisor access, evidence locker management and a ‘Follow Me’ feature which allows live footage to be routed to police. The CCTV team could detect more incidents, work closely with the police and produce evidential footage to secure pre-trial guilty pleas. However, cameras monitoring the council’s housing estates had been operating on a different system, which sometimes made incident tracking on a borough-wide basis difficult.
A move of the control centre to integrate with other key public protection teams, including the ASB units, licensing officers, and the emergency planning unit, let the borough look at bringing separate CCTV systems under one roof. Doing so required connecting more than 800 cameras from the borough’s housing estate areas – while ensuring each estate still retained localised access and control. This was work for Steve Hatton, director of Cognetix and the security consultant behind the entire project, Tyco the installer, and the Synergy product. Operators at the control centre can now access and collate data from more than 1000 cameras within a single system, including 14 3G mobile cameras deployed to ‘hot spots’ – locations often identified through incident type and rate analysis thanks to the software’s audit trail.
Mr Tuckey said: “Steve Hatton, our Cognetix consultant, developed a very detailed specification to best suit our needs. He and Tyco ensured the upgrade went very smoothly – with no downtime – and the user-friendly, intuitive nature of Synergy meant the team could quickly adapt to a vastly extended monitoring remit. In fact just two weeks after one of the estates ‘went live’ on the new system one of our operators was able to use around 80 cameras to help police track and arrest a suspected double murderer and arsonist, who was subsequently convicted. This was a location that our team had previously been unfamiliar with, which makes the achievement even more impressive. That member of staff was named CCTV operator of the year 2015 by London’s Metropolitan Police.
As a result of integration, according to Mr Tuckey, requests from the police for footage review, incident tracking and evidential support have increased significantly because “capabilities have improved so dramatically”. On average, around 1500 incidents are dealt with each quarter and in the last year alone, the team’s investigations helped police solve five murder cases. Mr Tuckey added: “One of the most important aspects of the upgraded solution is that it has enabled us to integrate very useful technologies on a single command and control platform – using Synergy to collate and manage data from Tyco surveillance equipment and Vigilant recording is incredibly beneficial to operational efficiency.
“Incident reviews – particularly those that involve movement detection – are much quicker. There have been instances where reviews that would previously have taken several hours have been completed in just minutes.
“As well as making it easier for us to help the police solve crimes, integrations such as these also help us prevent incidents from escalating as we are able to quickly detect potential issues and work with the police accordingly.”
Importantly for Islington, monitoring and reviewing efficiencies have not been at the expense of procedural accuracy. Mr Tuckey added: “Since the upgrade, we can monitor and review more cameras than ever before, faster than ever before, while being confident that every action is being logged automatically in order to generate a clear and transparent audit trail. In addition to aiding evidential procedures, this is also a vital tool for training and ultimately demonstrating the valuable service we provide for the borough.”
Using Synergy, Islington CCTV can deliver detailed reports for incident types, trends and locations – which can then be fed back to the police and local management to aid resource planning, for example mobile camera placement or officer deployment. Mr Tuckey added: “Our surveillance system is flexible, reliable, robust and above all, it is helpful. We’ve got a great team of dedicated operators who are passionate about keeping residents safe and committed to working in partnership with other borough teams to prevent and tackle crime and disorder. Helping these individuals to do their job effectively and efficiently is paramount and that’s what we’ve been able to do through investing in our surveillance solution.”