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London borough plans £5m, four-year CCTV upgrade

If you want to see proof of how wise it is to upgrade in good time, before something falls into disrepair, visit Hammersmith Bridge in west London.

The Victorian-era bridge, found to have dangerous cracks, was closed to motor traffic in April 2019 and to all in summer 2020. Since July 2021, it’s used by walkers and cyclists. A cabinet meeting of London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham (LHF) heard on March 7 that a ‘stabilisation’ project is due to finish this year. No-one knows when the bridge – the only one over the Thames between Chiswick and Putney – will take motor traffic again.

Earlier in the meeting, the cabinet agreed to one of the largest single spends on local government public space surveillance ever (or in the jargon of local government, ‘a capital investment strategy in the borough’s CCTV network and infrastructure’).

The borough describes its CCTV infrastructure as ageing; and partially analogue. Partly it proposes to go digital to avoid cost from keeping the old system going; a report to the council cabinet warns of ‘weak spots’ in transmission, and if ‘faults do materialise we know we will not be able to get the system back online unless whole sections of fibre are replaced which will be costly and time consuming’. Network fault repairs are costing about £12,000 per month and are not budgeted for. A fault repair budget (for maintenance as required to keep the system online and operational) is required to cover costs of unavoidable maintenance on the current network until it is replaced.

Partly, the spending is proposed for what extra the new kit can bring. It’s striking that the borough describes itself as ‘ruthlessly financially efficient’ and still proposes a four-year, £5.365m upgrade to its public space surveillance, which will increase the need for the council to borrow.

While it’s always dangerous to say that you are the biggest in anything, a report to councillors described the borough as having ‘most extensive CCTV network of any local authority in the country’; some 1,869 cameras, monitored 24-7 from a control room in Beavor Lane in Hammersmith, by a team of 11 operators and one manager. The report promised ‘not only the most extensive CCTV system in the country, but also the most technologically advanced’. The borough has 581 cameras in public areas, 1,209 on housing estates and 79 deployable cameras. As typically in local government, the CCTV is used against anti-social behaviour, and crime; and is ‘regularly used by the police during live operations to identify criminals and bring them to justice’. Just as in Kent, as featured in the July 2021 print edition of Professional Security, Tonbridge council decided against ending its CCTV monitoring, citing the recent murder in London of Sarah Everard, the report to councillors cited that – and other cases for bringing ‘into sharp focus our urgent duty to do all we can to protect women and girls in public places’.

Hence the borough was proposing one-off capital funding of £5.365m is sought to fund the costs of upgrading the CCTV (in all, £4.4m), a programme manager (£0.24m over the four years) and an annual budget to fund major repairs. The capital funding will include integrating the body cameras and radios of the new Law Enforcement Team (LET) with the CCTV control room (£0.15m). As an aside about LET, its officers patrol the borough day and night. All 72 LET officers are Community Safety Accreditation Scheme (CSAS) trained, and have a direct line to the council’s CCTV and the police. They have assisted local police where recent storms caused fallen masonry; and carry out weapons sweeps, and look into fly-tipping.

The borough’s aim; a digital platform ‘on which to build London’s most efficient, effective and forward thinking CCTV system’. The borough has grant funding of £0.9m from the West London Alliance ‘Fibre West’ digital programme. That will see deployment of £7.9m of grants across seven west London boroughs to install new gigabit fibre and ducting connections to public buildings in areas with poor connectivity. To gain that £0.9m, Hammersmith and Fulham have to provide a condition survey, estimated to cost £100,000 of the CCTV network to detail need.

Many of the potential ‘Fibre West’ H&F sites, the cabinet was told, sit close to the existing ducting. The council has proposed to the Alliance that rather than invest in a new, separate private sector owned fibre network to connect new sites, the council ought to replace and upgrade the council’s own CCTV fibre. WLA has agreed in principle.

A four year project is proposed; first year to include roll out the latest control room software; by year three to go fully digital (to enable parking and traffic enforcement to go automated if required; and include to transmit data from other, non crime or ASB related, Internet Of Things assets installed across the borough); and year four for the control room to have an integrated video wall and analytics.

Photo by Mark Rowe; H&F public space camera, Normand Road, Fulham.


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