West Midlands Police have invested in a state-of-the-art digital CCTV system to significantly improve the quality of city centre surveillance in Birmingham.
Nine Dedicated Micros' high-end BX2 digital video recorders have been rack-mounted in the newly refurbished, temperature controlled communications room at Steelhouse Lane Police station, located next to the city centre HQ of West Midlands Police.
High quality digital images are recorded from the 50 plus fixed and Pan/Tilt/Zoom security cameras operating across Birmingham's busy city centre. While the BX2s control the 12 local site cameras, a Synectics matrix uses a dedicated Fibre Optics cable across BT's Network to control the 38 remote Citywatch cameras.
The upgrade, which saw the force's central control room rebuilt from scratch, co-incided with the start of the war against Iraq and heightened levels of anti-terrorist security across Britain. Given the importance of continuous coverage, Birmingham based installers and system specifiers EDS built a temporary system and re-located the entire control room to provide interim coverage. The company worked round the clock to get the new control room up and running within days, without loosing any recording or control of the system.
Mark Darlaston, Managing Director of EDS, takes up the story: "The previous analogue system had been creating the usual tape management and image quality problems so the upgrade to digital was an obvious choice. However, city centre schemes generally require a lot of storage capacity so images can be referred to and scrutinised a long time after the event. In this case, West Midlands Police wanted to keep high quality images from all 50 cameras for up to 90 days. The BX2 is the only digital multiplex recorder on the market to offer a massive 1 terabyte, or 1000 GB, internal storage capacity - providing the police with more than three months on-board recording."
The BX2 multiplexers also offer an internal CD-R, a maximum record rate of up to 50 pictures per second, variable per camera and advanced video motion detection facilities. One unit has a live video feed for real time recording of any camera, which the operator can bring up on a spot monitor, allowing the police to record major incidents in real time at the push of a button, while viewing live pictures on a massive 50" plasma screen in the incident room.
As all the units are linked via a PC network, any of the three operators can control system functionality simultaneously via any of the three remote keyboards or across the network. While one operator adjusts camera position to get a better view, another can be replaying images from the same camera from seconds ago, all recorded digitally with high quality image reproduction.
The station is delighted with the results achieved with the new system to date. Colin Holder, Technical Support Operations Manager for West Midlands Police commented: "The installation at Steelhouse Lane really is a flagship site for UK city centre surveillance. With the old system, we had to wait for hours to review incidents from tape. Now we can review images from seconds ago - which is proving to be tremendously powerful in the fight against crime. As the picture rate is so much better than our original time-lapse video, where critical details were often missed, the new system is also producing excellent evidence for the courts. And the internal system storage is massive, so we can be sure we are keeping months of critical evidence to hand. We were proud to be able to demonstrate the system's impressive capability to the Prime Minister, Tony Blair recently, when he visited the control room at the end of April. He was extremely impressed with the system's performance."
The move to digital has also included Vyse Street Police Station, located in the heart of Birmingham's jewellery quarter and Digbeth Police Station. Mark Darlaston adds: "The beauty about the BX2 is that they can be networked together and synchronised as one unit, which came to the fore in a recent flash software upgrade, which took only minutes across the network. In Phase 2 of the upgrade, we will be linking all Police Stations together so that operators in any site can change camera positions and access images across the secure Police Network."