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Interviews

Metro at Security TWENTY 13 Newcastle

They came to Security TWENTY 13 Newcastle by air; by train; by car. Some, for the last leg of the journey at least, came by Newcastle Metro. How the Tyne and Wear train service has updated its CCTV was among the topics aired at ST13.

Metro in brief

Officially opened in 1980, it reached to Sunderland in 2002. Based on the same South Gosforth site as the control room are the Metro Revenue Protection staff, who inspect tickets. Visit www.nexus.org.uk.

Dave Hogg, Metro’s security manager, began by describing how about ten years ago the public transport operator applied for Home Office money, in the days of central government funding for putting in public space CCTV. Metro got £8m, one of the biggest grants. That went on CCTV working with five council areas – Gateshead, Newcastle, North Tyneside, South Tyneside and Sunderland. Nexus is now the passenger transport executive; and DB Regio the operator of the Metro under a concession. The Metro has about 700 cameras, that feed into the five councils’ control rooms and one Metro control room. Another 700 CCTV cameras are on the trains. Terabytes of information, ‘a tremendous amount of information’, are stored for 28 days. “We require a structured approach to producing information for the police, otherwise we would be absolutely sunk.” He recalled how around 2000 the Metro had a reputation as crime-ridden; and indeed reported crime then was higher than now. Gangs of youths might kick out the single-glazed windows of carriages; but the prevailing attitude was that the Metro couldn’t do anything about it. Station CCTV was patchy; and only partially recorded. In the first round of Home Office money for installing CCTV, Metro bid successfully to place seven cameras at a car park worst for auto crime, at Heworth in Sunderland. Those council-monitored cameras cut car crime there within a couple of years. More installations, and working with councils followed; with North Tyneside for instance to monitor stations, and Metro looked at CCTV covering the approaches to stations, whether from bus stops or car parks; besides for platforms and ticket kiosks. Metro was relying heavily on the council CCTV control, as operators had local knowledge from their town centre cameras. Besides, Metro’s control room did not have the capacity for more monitors; and CCTV for security might overlap with safety (always paramount for railways). Besides the council control rooms, councils and Metro made a joint code of practice; held weekly tasking meetings; and bi-monthly management meetings. Tasking meetings, chaired by Northumbria Police, went over reported incidents to decide where police should patrol and where CCTV operators should focus, and when. Management meetings were to iron out disputes over CCTV use; Nexus might want to pan and tilt a camera because of (say) a derailed train, while a council might want the camera for crime prevention. Talking of crime, in the first couple of years of CCCTV crime on the Metro went down 23 per cent; violent crime, 17pc; robbery, 42.7pc; but vehicle crime only 1.4pc. Disorder reports went up; but so did detections. Likewise Dave reported that number of crimes is currently falling; but the British Transport Police detection rate is rising.

The Metro control centre has public address for low-level anti-social behaviour (ASB). In a four-week period, Dave Hogg added, the Metro control centre will make between 100,and 120 announcements for such ASB as smoking in a no-smoking area; or running up the down escalator; or begging; and re-selling of tickets. Often this ASB is reported to Metro first by the council CCTV control rooms. Metro CCTV produces more than 900 discs a year of evidence, for police and its internal departments. Dave summed up that he wouldn’t want to do without CCTV, though admitted it was hard to see if CCTV was behind rising customer satisfaction.

Next Lee Tones, architecture and engineering manager, covered the move to networked CCTV. Metro has had analogue cameras (and help points) with local recording at every station; and a 25-year-old telephone exchange. All the assets were going to be renewed. Lee described the challenges: ageing equipment and structure. “We are building new stations; everybody wants more cameras, help points, integration, and the old systems are starting to struggle a bit to support that.” Integration means more linking with the police, something too complicated for the old kit. A Department for Transport grant of £385m over 11 years is for the Metro generally – for a new ticketing and gate system, for example – but includes CCTV. Metro is looking to centralise maintenance; have full disaster recovery; and a life-cycle approach, to understand the total cost of ownership. Metro has gone for MPLS (multi-protocol label switching). Lee said: “It gives us a lot more security for the video streams and I am not just talking about CCTV; the network will support the business as well as CCTV, help points, telephones [Voice over Internet Protocol], customer information screens, everything that we do.” Besides two data centre, a third rented centre off-site is proposed. Also new, a resilient fibre network, seeking to safeguard against thieves cutting the fibre to seek copper. Recording of CCTV will be centralised; no more spending on analogue. IP will give access to CCTV for staff when they are out of the office. Besides new technology, Metro will have to change policies and procedures; and train technicians. As Lee sid finally, the Metro cannot have a ‘big switch off’; the railway has to keep running; analogue devices will still have to work, on a WAN (wireless network).

Scots CCTV

Abda Ali, general manager of Forth Valley CCTV, gave an update on Scottish public space CCTV. She’s also representative to the Scottish Government for the three, regional groups of local authority CCTV; north, west and east. In Scotland as in England, central government put money into public space CCTV in the 1990s and to 2005, without thinking of strategic development. Hence in 2009 the Scottish Government decided to assess how Scots CCTV was being run, and if it was achieving what was wanted. In short: a national strategy. Again with echoes of council CCTV in England, Abda Ali spoke of the stumbling block now being money – capital and revenue spend. Police Scotland, the new single force, began a review in May, asking if Scots CCTV was consistent, and efficient. Again as in England, Abda Ali noted that CCTV is not a statutory obligation; and CCTV must compete with other council service budgets. Police in Scotland do not contribute equally across the country to CCTV. Scottish public CCTV systems are ageing; apart from Glasgow’s, which has seen an upgrade before the 2014 Commonwealth Games. She said: “We really need to have an injection of cash into CCTV to make sure our systems are sustainable and can achieve what they set out to achieve.” Some 67 per cent of Scottish public space cameras are analogue (that is, 33pc are digital); and 75pc of the matrices are analogue (again, meaning 25pc are digital). Four in five, 80pc of systems have analogue transmission. She said: “We need to look at hybrid systems to start moving into digital; and it will take us some time to be able to do that.”

Winner of iPad

The winner of the by now traditional iPad for business cards left at the stand of exhibitior 360 Vision was former police officer John Corrie, of Peritus Scotland. Pictured left to right are Roy Cooper; John Corrie; and Andy Alexander and Julie Joiner of 360.

Valleywatch exhibitor

One of the most local exhibitors at ST13 Newcastle was Valleywatch (www.valleywatch.co.uk). Briefly, that’s the security and monitoring service covering the giant Team Valley business estate at Gateshead. Cyril Deeming, general manager, spoke of Valleywatch looking to get involved with CCTV installers at an earlier stage; and seeking to offer its service not only to other industrial estates, but sites such as stately homes.


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