|A major operational task for the CCTV vehicle is monitoring the behaviour of football fans travelling through the city|
PatrolVu Mobile CCTV technology from TSS (Traffic Safety Systems) - part of AD Group - is proving to be extremely effective on the ground for Cumbria Police, helping to tackle anti-social behaviour in key hot spot areas across the force's Northern Command area - specifically Carlisle city centre - and to deliver a rapidly deployable resource to assist with crowd control on match days, which has resulted in a number of prosecutions following clashes between rival fans.
For the past 12 months the advanced digital PatrolVu solution from TSS has been fitted out in a large - high roofed - CCTV van which was formerly used by a local safety partnership for traffic law enforcement. The van, in bright yellow livery, is now equipped with dual CCTV controls for the operator in the back - with a large 19" screen - and the driver; a 360 degree mast camera and a forward facing camera. Prior to this the PatrolVu solution was deployed by Cumbria in a smaller Mercedes Sprinter van, which, although effective, had to double up as a custody vehicle, which meant, if suspects had to be taken back to the station, then surveillance coverage could be lost. Fortunately this is not an issue with the latest CCTV vehicle, which does not have a dual role.
One of the key benefits Cumbria Police have found with the latest, high visibility, CCTV van is the immediate impact that its appearance can have at key hotspots in the City Centre, in terms of acting as a deterrent to anti-social behaviour.
Said Ian McCrone from Cumbria Police: "People often ask me to quantify the impact of our mobile CCTV van. What I see, on a daily basis, is the difference its presence makes once we are parked-up, and the mast camera fully deployed, in terms of stopping incidents or preventing an escalation in those already in progress. Often it is the friend of the individual who is being violent, and may be too inebriated to notice, that spots our van and responds by taking them away from the situation to calm down. Of course should the van prove not to be deterrent enough then we still have recourse to the digital evidence recorded by PatrolVu to take appropriate action against the culprits.
"When it comes to Friday and Saturday nights, and the major influx of revellers into the city centre, we will typically position the camera van on the main street in Carlisle where, using our 360 degree mast camera, we can pretty much cover the street and the doorways of every pub and club in the vicinity and zoom in on areas of interest.
"Although we predominantly use the top camera, the forward fixed camera provides a useful vantage point when we want to pick-up activity during an incident from a different perspective, especially if the main camera is pointing in the other direction and a suspect tries to run-off. This was highlighted in a recent incident where a male claimed to have been attacked by a female, which, when challenged, she denied. We had not initially witnessed the assault but which, when reviewing the footage, we realised that the complainant had been telling the truth all along as the female's actions were picked-up clearly on the smaller fixed camera."
In addition to dealing with problematic anti-social behaviour in Carlisle city centre in the evening, the PatrolVu equipped vehicle is periodically set-up in key trouble hot spots in other parts of the city - such as near playing fields to combat underage drinking - and used to support the policing of summer carnivals and other community events in outlying areas.
Another major operational task for the CCTV vehicle is monitoring the behaviour of football fans travelling through the city on match day, to minimize disruption and maintain public order. The geography of Carlisle can prove to be a real challenge for the control of football crowds as many visiting supporters have to make their way to the football ground along the main route into city (about two miles) from the railway station. This creates numerous flashpoints along the way with local fans, which have to be policed, and also means that visiting fans are more likely to come into contact with the general population.
Commented Ian McCrone from Cumbria Police: "Fortunately, when it comes to football fans, the advent of the mobile CCTV van has made a major difference to the tactics we can employ. As we are highly visible and mobile we can follow them right down to the ground to deter any trouble and communicate both with the City Centre Control Room and the Match Control Room.
"The benefits of having a mobile CCTV solution were definitely brought into sharp focus when we had to deal with 20 plus Newcastle and Carlisle supporters who had arranged to meet-up to fight outside a pub. This followed a pre-season friendly where we had about 3,500 away supporters in the city. Fortunately, although the pub was off the beaten track - miles away from Carlisle's ground - our CCTV van happened to be in the general area following up reports that a number of males had been causing problems in the City Centre. When we saw a group of males walking towards a City Centre pub, our suspicions were raised and we were able to ensure that the PatrolVu system was up and running to capture footage of all the activity that followed.
"This was extremely fortunate as it turned out that the pub concerned had no internal CCTV cameras, so our evidence proved to be a deciding factor in the case. With the digital CCTV footage officers from Cumbria Police were able to provide footage to our colleagues in Northumbria Police so they could confirm the identities of the Newcastle supporters."
If the van proves not to be deterrent enough, the police has evidence to take appropriate action against the culprits
"Thankfully, the CCTV evidence we captured led to a number of successful convictions - which include football banning orders, fines and community service. The story was also widely reported by the local and national media. This demonstrates the real value of CCTV evidence when it comes to public order offences - once you have images there is an opportunity to take action against individuals at a later date. If we had not been near the incident then, with the dearth of CCTV cameras, the reality is that it would have been nearly impossible to identify and prosecute the individuals involved."
Said Ron Coleman, Marketing Director at TSS: "We are delighted with the positive results that Cumbria Police have obtained through the efforts of Ian McCrone and his team and the continued deployment PatrolVu across the Northern Command area - particularly in the city of Carlisle. Time and again this type of solution has proven that it can be a powerful force multiplier when adopted to tackle street crime and anti-social behaviour. A key benefit, of course, with mobile, as opposed to static CCTV solutions, is the ability to move it to where it is needed most to keep a watchful eye on hotspots to deter criminal activity and, crucially, to allow the gathering of vital evidence, as in the case of the football fans, to convict the offenders.