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CCTV software from Synectics fortifies security in the city of Peterborough

Surveillance software from Synectics bolsters security in Peterborough
Effective surveillance room technology from Synectics is helping to protect the streets of Peterborough
Home to more than 160,000 residents, in tandem with a £1 billion regeneration of its city centre and its surrounding areas, Peterborough is currently undergoing rapid expansion. Traditionally known for its manufacturing capabilities, the city is also developing an increasing reputation within the service and distribution industries, alongside growing visitor numbers to its historic landmarks that include a twelfth century cathedral and seventeenth century Guildhall. Helping to protect the town for a number of years has been the job of a growing CCTV network. From an initial 44 cameras, installed in 1997, the system has grown to over 140 cameras, which cover key areas of the city's centre and extends to surrounding housing estates and suburban areas. Maximising the potential of this expansive camera network, the city-centre based control room has recently been upgraded, employing a comprehensive Synectics SynergyPro software command and control system, installed through Peterborough City Council's recently appointed CCTV contractor, Quadrant Security Group (QSG), as part of their contractual requirements.

Live trials

Peterborough Council's Roy Wildman explains: "QSG proposed the Synectics solution and provided our control room with trial equipment that was used to control an element of our ‘live' camera network - to provide us with a real-life evaluation of how the technology would cope on a daily basis. This extended demonstration gave our team of operators a ‘test drive' of the proposed solution, affording them the ability to evaluate it within our own system's environment."

"In these ‘live' trials, the Synectics solution showed itself to be a very intuitive control product and probably more importantly, met with the approval of our operators. The Synectics solution was therefore used for our control room upgrade, one that would also see an additional operator position added to further increase our control room's capacity and efficiency."

Evidential CCTV video footage can be transferred to mobile media and relayed to the police

Installed by Quadrant Security Group and officially opened in November 2007, Peterborough's purpose built control room now boasts three SynergyPro control positions. Roy explains: "From each control point, all 144 cameras are instantly available to view via on-screen maps, with their selection made either via a simple on-screen touch of their location, or by camera number. One of the superior qualities of the SynergyPro product and very popular with our operators during the evaluation period, is its ability to provide each individual with their own way of working. Operators familiar with the camera network can change cameras via inputting camera numbers, via the interactive touch-screen map, or the ‘Next' function on the accompanying Synectics Navigator joystick. Even with our eleven operators working on a rota basis, with eleven very different user profiles, individuals' bespoke functionality is readily initiated at the touch of a button at shift handovers."

Roy continues: "With the diverse surveillance subjects our control room operators deal with, one of the key remits for our updated control facility is to minimise the time operators spent physically moving between workstations, in order to perform disparate system tasks. SynergyPro enables all common system functions to be accomplished at any workstation, maximising operator efficiency and allowing control room staff to channel their skills more efficiently into the monitoring of cameras."

Dedicated team

Roy's control room operators, some of whom have been working in the team for over eleven years, experience an average of 1,165 incidents each month. If necessary, evidential CCTV video footage can be transferred to mobile media and relayed to the police via the control room's dedicated, full-time Police liaison officer. Roy explains: "Having served in the police force for over 30 years, I can appreciate the benefits of having a police trained single point of contact, one who knows exactly what visual evidence is required to affect an effective conviction. We have had this dedicated police liaison facility for nine years and it has greatly speeded-up the transfer of our valuable visual evidence to the police, who can then use it to keep our streets much safer. The liaison officer also acts as a conduit for a two-way flow of information between our two organisations. The daily ‘information briefings' we receive provide our operators with an intelligence led focus and direction as to the way they work each day, which plays a significant part in many of the successes we achieve."

From the purpose built control facility, operators can view a wide-range of public space areas, including the majority of the city's centre, surrounding suburban housing estates and both the internal and external cameras of the various council buildings in the area. As such, the range of incidents caught within these locations can be varied and wide-ranging. During the daytime, operators monitor Peterborough's busy shopping districts, regularly assisting with the tracking of any shoplifting incidents or suspicious characters monitored within the city.

Roy elaborates: "Assisting with the town's ‘Retail Radio' scheme means we can identify a number of known characters as soon as they enter the surveillance area, warning any retail outlets accordingly. Similarly, if an individual is suspected of committing an offence in one store, we can follow them and alert other businesses in the area to be on their guard. We are in constant contact with the security team at the large Queensgate Shopping Centre that occupies much of the centre of the city. Here, they have an on-site control room, from which they monitor their internal camera network. We can however, link to all their cameras and control them directly via our SynergyPro interface, this means we can track individuals through all parts of the town, even when they think they have avoided detection by diverting through the Queensgate Centre."

Synectics amplifies security in the city of Peterborough
From the surveillance control room, operators can view a wide-range of public space areas
Diverse roles

However, the CCTV system is not just used to track suspected offenders. Roy and his team have, in the past, been integral in the search for lost children and other vulnerable missing people in the city, and often provide a key information resource when emergency services such as medical crews need to locate an individual requiring urgent assistance. The camera network and control room is also seen as a key support to the City Council's enforcement staff, e.g. Litter and Street Wardens, providing them with key supporting visual evidence in a number of cases.

"During the evenings we concentrate our monitoring efforts on the city centre's bar and nightclub areas, that have become synonymous with most city centre's night time economy," says Roy. "Again, the Pub Watch scheme is most active during the evening and helps to ensure that an incident in one establishment doesn't spread to others. Our experienced operators are well versed with the possible flash points for alcohol related disorder, and should such an incident occur police are advised directly via the control room's direct radio link. We can be required to deal with a vast range of instances, and are acutely aware that thousands of people leaving night clubs and late-night drinking pubs at the same time can cause flash points. We work closely with the police and the Pub Watch scheme to make sure any troublemakers identified on our system are, in appropriate cases, effectively ‘barred' from every city centre pub."

Effective technology

Any incident requiring additional support can be helped by the control room's ability to route ‘live' camera video via SynergyPro's ‘Follow Me' feature, directly to monitors located at police Headquarters in Huntingdon. Operators can feed live events directly to these screens, affording remote site police controllers the ability to follow a situation as it develops, enabling them to assess and commit the correct level of response to a variety of incidents.

Roy elaborates: "Our police colleagues work hard to minimise response times to incidents and the Synectics ‘Follow Me' feature has proved to be a great help. It permits professional police assessment to be in immediate ‘virtual' attendance at incidents under surveillance, via their monitors. A key factor in any successful control room CCTV system is its ability to meet the needs of the service it provides. The environment in which we work is constantly changing and evolving, and the flexibility to meet our changing needs is very important. With our new Synectics SynergyPro system, we are confident in the investment of a powerful surveillance tool which will help us to do just this over the coming years."

Roy concludes: "In the time we have been using the upgraded system we have had a remarkable amount of successful prosecutions, on the strength of the irrefutable visual evidence captured of each case."

From the effective detection of burglars transporting high-end electrical goods down dark alleyways in the dead of night, to vital evidential footage of assaults, this team of experienced operators, backed by effective control room technology from Synectics, is helping to protect the streets of Peterborough, both day and night.

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