|BT Security Solutions i-Witness digital storage and retrieval platform was chosen by Sussex Police|
Public Space Surveillance CCTV in Sussex is operated by a partnership of Sussex Police Authority and local authorities across East and West Sussex and Brighton & Hove City. Local authorities have ownership and are responsible for cameras on the streets, while Sussex Police owns, maintains and operates the county's CCTV monitoring centres. CCTV in the county covers some 30 towns and villages including Brighton, Hove, Lewes, Eastbourne, Hastings, Bognor, Chichester, Crawley, Horsham and Haywards Heath and involves over 390 cameras.
Sussex Police Authority had recognised a need to upgrade its existing CCTV monitoring capability. Roger Fox is Sussex Police CCTV Manager. He explains: "The old analogue system had reached the end of its life and we either had to invest in new technology or abandon the system altogether. It was a pretty stark choice, which in the end wasn't any choice at all. We had to have a new system." Having taken the decision to replace the county's CCTV control and record facilities, a programme board was established in early 2008, with a remit to develop an all-new system to meet the modern monitoring needs of the county. Central to the plan that was developed - and in line with one of the key recommendations of the ACPO/Home Office National CCTV Strategy - was the provision of a new Sussex-wide data network that would allow CCTV images from the police monitoring centres to be distributed and viewed in local police stations and custody suites across the county.
It was also decided to consolidate monitoring for the county from four centres into two new control centres at Brighton and Haywards Heath - rebuilding the existing facilities at those locations, and to modernise an additional facility at the Gold Command Suite at Lewes.
CCTV consultants MFD Group worked on behalf of Sussex Police to specify the requirements of the new system. BT Security Solutions i-Witness digital storage and retrieval platform was chosen by Sussex Police to be at the heart of the new digital network. The integrated solution also includes a new IP-based digital network, new terminals and monitoring screens as well as the new digital data storage and retrieval system.
"i-Witness was the most appropriate system for our needs,
" says Roger. "It offers very good data review and download capabilities and the system makes it really easy for officers to access images and very quickly download them onto an evidential disk.
|Images from local cameras are accessible to police officers from secure terminals |
Under the BT plan a new county-wide data network would be built. The network would be a hybrid system combining both analogue and digital elements. The existing analogue camera network would be retained. Also, two new monitoring centres would be built, one in Brighton to cover East Sussex and the other at Haywards Heath to cover West Sussex. Both would be fully-digital, with digital control, monitoring, data storage and retrieval. Additionally, the new network would be extended to include viewing terminals at eight local police stations and six local custody suites across the county. For the first time in the UK, both the Criminal Justice System and police on the ground would be given fast access to CCTV evidence data. "Our goal was to build a system that would be easily accessible by ordinary police officers on the streets," explains Roger.
Work on installation of the East Sussex phase of the project began in late 2008. "BT Security Solutions was the lead contractor for all of the technology aspects of the project. They were our single point of contact for the various sub-contractors involved, which simplified the process considerably," explains Roger.
"Both the installation itself and our relationship with BT worked very well. BT were very hands-on. Weekly team meetings enabled us to keep very tight control and ensured that the work was finished both on time and on budget," he says. The works to upgrade the East Sussex CCTV system, bringing the outputs from some 150 cameras onto the new network, to install the new monitoring facility in Brighton, and to build the new data network, installing terminals in three local police stations and three custody suites in East Sussex, as well as training over 700 police officers to use the new equipment, was completed with the switch-over to the new system in early March 2009. Sussex Police are assured of the reliability of the system as remote diagnostics mean the heartbeat of the system is continually monitored and service level guarantees mean the system is protected 24 hours a day 7 days a week.
Even in the short time since the system has been operational, it is proving its worth. Roger explains: "Having the BT Security Solutions i-Witness client terminals in local police stations and custody suites means that officers investigating crimes can now go to their local terminal and download the relevant images very quickly. The benefit within the Criminal Justice System (CJS) is that officers are now able to confront suspects with CCTV evidence at a far earlier stage of the investigation than was previously possible."
"Before, officers would have had to make an appointment to come and view images at one of the control rooms, resulting in a delay of maybe a couple of weeks, by which time the suspects would have been bailed. Now, with the i-Witness system, an officer who apprehends an individual can go to the terminal in their own police station and have access to the images straightaway. That officer can then take the images to the custody room and confront the suspect with them while they are still at their first interview stage of the process."
|BT Security Solutions' CCTV systems offer secure CCTV data monitoring, storage and retrieval|
"CCTV evidence is very persuasive. By being able to show suspects video evidence that early in the process we are able to encourage more early guilty pleas. The benefit is quicker justice. We are able to offer better service to the victims of crime. We're seeing fewer lengthy bail processes, saving officer's time. Also, officers no longer have to travel to a monitoring centre miles away - so there are significant environmental savings by cutting the number of officer journeys - and it means officers are now spending more of their time in their own local areas. All round, the BT system has delivered a package of improvements that is saving money, increasing efficiency and is benefiting local communities,
" he says.
"Eventually we hope to be able to quantify the savings the system delivers in terms of officers' time and the benefits of keeping officers on their own patch. However - and we will be on new ground here - we will also be seeking to measure the system's impact in terms of the wider use of CCTV in the CJS and to quantify the money it saves within the CJS through its ability to win early guilty pleas."
"So far we have had very good feedback from officers on the ease of use of the i-Witness system - particularly in terms of just how quickly they can find and save out to evidence the CCTV images they need. It is early days to properly judge the impact of the new technology in the courts, but we have already received encouraging anecdotal feedback that the use of CCTV evidence is starting to increase," Roger concludes.
Work is now well underway on the second phase of the work to update the West Sussex half of the system. Network infrastructure works to deliver local access terminals are well advanced, and the whole project, including the second new monitoring facility at Hayward's Heath, is expected to be completed by October 2009.
"By then we will have everything on the same new county-wide system. Then, in terms of business continuity, we will have two separate facilities in Brighton and in Haywards Heath, either of which, if necessary, will be capable of monitoring the whole county," says Roger. "That will give us a strong platform to build on. After that there is the possibility of extending the network out farther to other authorities, as well as adding more police stations and further extensions within the CJS."
"By October we will have nearly 1500 officers trained to use the system, and our goal is that any officer who has any investigative role will be trained to use the i-Witness system. The exciting thing is that - using the networked i-Witness system - we are able for the first time to take CCTV access out to local police stations and the CJS. Getting ordinary police officers to use the i-Witness system, and to use the CCTV evidence it generates at a local level to bring offenders to justice - that's what it's all about," concludes Roger.