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SynergyPro CCTV software from Synectics keeps security issues at bay in the Town of Luton

SynergyPro CCTV software from Synectics protects Luton Town environment
Three SynergyPro workstations have been deployed to control and fully integrate the multi-vendor system
Located 32 miles north of London, the unitary authority of Luton is home to a population of over 200,000 residents. A regenerating area with major town centre building projects currently underway, visitors can enjoy pedestrians' areas and the recently refurbished Mall Arndale shopping centre, both containing a diverse range of restaurants, shops, bars and clubs.

Keen to provide a secure town centre environment, in 1998 Luton Borough Council initiated a basic CCTV installation, expanding it in 2003 with the help of Home Office funding, from 68 to 135 cameras. Advancements in technology coupled to the scheme's expanding coverage has meant that the system's control function was beginning to show signs of its age, prompting a re-evaluation of the overall control solution during the second half of 2007. Jason Butler, CCTV Control Room Manager at the Luton control room explains: "We looked at different equipment from a variety of manufacturers, and eventually chose Synectics' award-winning SynergyPro control software solution to cater for our existing and future needs."

Recently installed by Quadrant Security Group, Synergy's intuitive operator interface allows staff new to the system to be quickly ‘at home' in the new control environment. Synergy's unique ‘Next' camera function affords operators the ability to select the next camera on from the currently selected choice, on a geographical basis (i.e. north, south, east, or west), on a touch screen displayed map.

Jason continues: "The unique design of SynergyPro's interface means that each member of staff can use the system in their preferred way, switching cameras either with the Navigator joy stick, or via touch screen display, where the location of each camera is displayed on bespoke maps. Intuitive camera switching has proven highly effective when tracking incidents throughout the area, such as shoplifters exiting the busy Mall Arndale and trying to escape through the town's complicated network of streets. Using the comprehensive on-screen maps at our disposal, we have had multiple successes, following target suspects on camera, whilst directing security officers or the police to their precise location. Our experienced team can also pre-empt these situations and using the ‘Shop-Watch' radio system, also controlled from our facility, alerting shop and security staff to known suspects spotted in the area, before they attempt to enter retail establishments."

Synergy's programmable PTZ tours allow Luton's vast CCTV network to be mobile without operator input

Within the control room upgrade, three SynergyPro workstations have been deployed to control and fully integrate the multi-vendor system, allowing operators a fast route to all common system functions, and Jason, the managerial ability to monitor operation details and audit system usage, as and when necessary. With such a large network of cameras, it is impossible for Luton's operators to view or control all of the cameras, all at the same time. Addressing this, Synergy's programmable PTZ tours allow Luton's vast camera network to be mobile without operator input. "This contributes significantly to the ‘deterrent' effect of the system, with any potential offenders alerted to the systems presence by the moving cameras," explains Jason.

Synergy's powerful ‘Incident' (in progress) feature is used by the control room staff during the course of tracking ‘live' events on-screen, to create a fully documented audit trail of any incident. The ‘Incident' feature also locks-out other operators from using a specific ‘live' camera during the crucial incident tracking period. The date, along with start and finish time for each event is stored automatically within the evidential video created, and tagged with a full audit trail of information, indexed to the operator's initials. Operators can be confident that when tracking an event, each action taken is recorded and fully documented for future reference, or if required, for evidential purposes. Another aspect of the ‘Incident' feature, used by Luton's staff should an incident require police attendance, is the ability to feed ‘live' incident images directly to the local Police Headquarters. This up-to-the-minute visual information is then used by Police managers in the effective deployment of resources, allowing officers to assess an incident's scale, before any officers are deployed to attend the scene.

"The control room's three Synergy positions are fully occupied on a rotating shift basis," explains Jason. "From a monitoring point of view, daylight hours provide different challenges to the evenings. Daytime sees the town bustling with shoppers, where obvious public and retail security issues can arise. The evenings present a different set of issues, where the usual Friday or Saturday night based recreation can spill into violence, or may simply involve individuals endangering themselves or others with overenthusiastic behaviour. Through experienced monitoring from our professional team, we are able to harness the Synectics technology at our finger tips and provide a constant surveillance update to all the licensed premises that participate in the ‘Safe and Sure' radio link scheme. This helps to contain an altercation in one area of the city centre, preventing it from spilling over to another."

Operators can experience a variety of incidents in the day-to-day running of the control room. "The areas we monitor are quite diverse," explains Jason. "Luton town centre is very busy, whilst the residential areas are generally quieter and experience different issues, leaning more in the direction of public order and anti social behaviour. We also monitor remote sites, such as the exterior of the historic Museum of Luton, set in a large park; the issues here mainly involve groups of loitering youths during the hours of darkness. Therefore our surveillance team has to continually adjust their perception of an "incident" on the system."

This ability comes from knowledge and operational experience - valuable qualities in a control room team. Summarising, Jason said: "Selecting the SynergyPro control software solution has enabled the control room operators to maximise the performance of our existing camera network, whilst Synectics' broad depth of third party integration capabilities means that any future systems expansion or technology changes required will be readily incorporated."

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