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Axis sees rise in demand for fuel depot network surveillance solutions as recession bites

Published on 9 December, 2008

 Axis Partner LDE has been taking a steady stream of enquiries from fuel depot operations
 Axis partner sees increase in demand for network surveillance systems from fuel depot operations
Axis Communications' partner LDE Data Communications Limited (LDE) has seen unprecedented demand for its fuel depot security solution ‘SmartAlarms' following a significant rise in fuel theft during 2008. Several police forces including West Yorkshire and Gwent reported a near tripling of fuel theft-related crimes after price rises in their jurisdictions this year, amounting to several reported incidents across the country each week.

LDE, a network integration and security installation firm based in Wiltshire, has been taking a steady stream of enquiries from fuel depot operations and has so far installed networked surveillance systems at more than 140 sites across the country. Surveillance has become vital as thieves are becoming increasingly bold in the manner of their thefts.

LDE managing director, Julio Wildeboer, explains: "We've seen several examples of thieves using angle grinders to cut holes in tanks above the oil line in order to gain access to the product. They don't even bother breaking into the tanks' caps anymore and are quite prepared to take the risk of setting the place on fire in their quest for the fuel, as it is now worth from £10,000 to £20,000 per tank.

Thieves have also become more adept at evading the law when transporting stolen fuel. In one recent example a curtain-sided lorry was used to hide six plastic domestic 2500 litre tanks of diesel stolen from a depot. Normally the police would have been out hunting for a fuel tanker and so this lorry would have been able to escape initial detection. Luckily, the targeted depot had SmartAlarms and caught the whole event on camera. The police were called immediately and the vehicle seized whilst the criminals were still loading up."

It is also proving more difficult to deter fuel theft gangs by fitting stand-alone alarms due to the unwillingness of neighbours to alert the police when systems are triggered. To combat this problem, LDE is increasingly working with companies to install networked surveillance solutions that use the existing corporate wide area networks (WANs). 

These WANs are used heavily for the transmission of scheduling, orders and accounts information during the working day but when idle at night they can be deployed to carry security information. The SmartAlarms system converts conventional CCTV image streams from analogue to digital using AXIS 241Q Video Encoders, allowing this data to be carried over the company WAN.

 "LDE's SmartAlarms is a great example of a real-world, innovative solution to the serious financial challenges facing companies today," says Phil Doyle, managing director, Axis Communications (UK) Limited

These images are then transmitted securely to LDE's own Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC) which provides 24-hour monitoring and emergency response to over 140 fuel depots and stores all of the footage for later analysis offsite. LDE's team at the centre provides vital real-time verification of any triggered alert, preventing false alarms and avoiding unnecessary police callouts.

If there is genuine criminal activity the ARC will call the appointed site key holder to advise them of events and enable them to take immediate action. The key holder may then log on to LDE's web interface to view cameras in real-time, or switch to analysis of recorded images.

The police will also be informed that a theft is underway - on previous occasions, LDE staff have even emailed images to the local police station ahead of the arrival of the arresting officers, aiding them as they apprehend the suspects.  The camera footage also provides valuable intelligence on the methods and transportation used by thieves, increasing conviction rates and aiding future theft prevention.

Wildeboer summarised: "Fuel theft is an increasingly serious problem and the human as well as economic costs are very high indeed. Organised crime gangs are using profits from stolen fuel to fund other criminal activities including drug trafficking. So anything we can do to stop fuel depot thefts will have a positive knock-on effect on crime as a whole."

Phil Doyle, managing director, Axis Communications (UK) Limited: "LDE's SmartAlarms is a great example of a real-world, innovative solution to the serious financial challenges facing companies today. The use of event triggers to avoid 24/7/365 live monitoring and distribution, to staff and police of images of theft in progress, is indicative of the power of IP-based surveillance. Well done to Julio and his team at LDE."

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