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SynergyPro CCTV software beefs up security in Mansfield town

SynegryPro surveillance solution strengthens security in Mansfield
Mansfield control room benefited from the installation of Synectics' SynergyPro CCTV software
The Nottinghamshire town of Mansfield lies on the River Maun and is the main town in the Mansfield local government district, with a total population of around 160,000 inhabitants spread throughout an area that comprises the major towns of Mansfield Woodhouse and Warsop.

Mansfield itself is renowned for its large market square, which forms the focal point of the town's shopping district, with the surrounding large commercial centre comprising a museum, theatre, and diverse nightlife including many pubs, bars and clubs. Instigated to provide community support, an original CCTV system was commissioned in 1997, with 16 cameras covering Mansfield's town centre. Throughout the years, the system has expanded to encompass the surrounding towns of Warsop, Mansfield Woodhouse, Sutton-in-Ashfield, Kirby-in-Ashfield, Newstead and Hucknal, and stations on the Robin Hood train line. With the system now totalling 170 cameras, the majority are relayed back to the control room via a comprehensive fibre network. Over the life of the scheme, the progressive expansion of camera coverage had inevitably led to the existing control and recording equipment, which included a labour intensive analogue tape-based recording facility, beginning to show its age and lack of operational flexibility. Directly addressing these issues, the Mansfield control room has recently benefited from the installation of Synectics' award-winning SynergyPro software control and Modular Digital Recording System (MDRS) solution.

Selecting a solution

Mansfield's purpose built surveillance control room boasts four Synergy control positions

Cath Bannister, CCTV Manager at the Mansfield District Council control room, explains how the council embarked on the comprehensive update to the system: "With such an expansive control update on the horizon, it seemed a natural choice to obtain the very best CCTV technology we could, and the optimum solution that would best suit our diverse monitoring requirements. With this in mind, we prepared a tender that was eventually won by Quadrant Security Group, the company who had supplied and maintained our original surveillance system."

"A very important part of this tender was the opportunity to experience and evaluate the various technologies available, with four major solution providers recommended to us all providing a recommended system for evaluation in our own control room. This allowed both myself and our experienced operators to thoroughly evaluate each system's strengths and capabilities, operating under the same circumstances. In these ‘live' trials, the Synectics SynergyPro and MDRS recording solution stood out head and shoulders above the other offerings as an intuitive control product, gaining a much higher rating from our system operators than any of the other products on test."

"In addition to this, each manufacturer's supplier gave a technical presentation on the capabilities of their products. Again, Synectics impressed us with their technical flexibility and cohesive approach, with an easy to understand presentation that reflected the systems technical capabilities relevant to us and the level of after sales service we could expect once we had taken delivery of the product."

Mansfield's purpose built control room now boasts four Synergy control positions. From each control point, all 170 cameras are instantly available to view via on-screen maps, with their selection via a simple onscreen touch of their location, that is, in addition to selection by camera number. Cath continues: "With the diverse surveillance subjects our control room operators deal with, one of the key remits of our tender was to minimise the time operators spent physically moving between workstations, to monitor different elements of the fragmented system, in order to perform daily system tasks. Using SynergyPro now enables all common system functions to be made available from any workstation, maximising operator efficiency and allowing the control room staff to channel their skills efficiently into the monitoring of cameras."

Mansfield's 93Tb of Synectics MDRS digital storage permits instantly accessible, retrospective video review

Effective technology

Adhering to the remit for the original Mansfield system to ‘detect crime, and bring public confidence and regeneration to the area', the expanded camera network has had a marked affect in the areas to which it is employed. In its first year of operation the original system contributed to a 25% reduction in crime levels and a 40% reduction in shop theft, an effect that has been repeated throughout all the areas covered by the expanding surveillance system.

Cath explains: "Based on the success of the initial system, we have employed the latest technology throughout the expansion to maximise its impact on each area covered, such as our use of camera-head mounted audio horn speakers on selected cameras. These allow our experienced operators to communicate directly with the public, whether to warn them that their anti-social actions have been caught on CCTV or to advise them that assistance to an incident has been summoned. Although a diverse role for the system, and one that may not immediately be associated with CCTV, it's very effective none the less."

Here, Synergy's ‘incident in progress' feature can be used not only to record and tag the incident footage, but thanks to Synectics' unique integration capabilities, to also record the system's matrix audio too. "This provides another dimension to valuable evidential footage, providing an audio record of the specific message broadcasted over the PA, and visual footage of the reaction," continues Cath. "As an example of its use, we recently detected a number of youths gathering at a popular children's playground. Although they weren't committing an offence, their on-mass presence was clearly worrying young mothers and their children, putting them off using the facilities. When advised over the audio system that the playground was intended for use by young children only, the youths moved away without complaint. This simple action allowed the children to continue to enjoy a sunny afternoon on the swings, and was followed by an appreciative wave of acknowledgment to the cameras from their mothers."

Recording in real-time, 24-hours a day, Mansfield's 93Tb of Synectics MDRS digital storage permits instantly accessible, retrospective video review from each operators' Synergy position, or a dedicated workstation (for third party, or Police review). This affords Mansfield's operators with instant confirmation of any event they may have seen on screen. Cath explains: "For example, we may pick up an altercation on the cameras 10 or 15 seconds into the disturbance. In addition to directing police to the incident, we need to identify the individuals involved. Via the Synergy system, operators can access the recorded footage from the start of the incident, instantly - quickly identifying the individuals responsible for starting the disturbance and identifying them to police officers at the scene. Alternatively, if we receive a call from officers wanting to retrospectively investigate an incident they may have just attended, by the time they arrive at the control room, we can have the requested footage ready for review. The outcome of which, may result in the footage being burnt to a DVD along with an evidential audit trail for offsite review or prosecutional use. The ability to react quickly and efficiently in these situations is paramount to an effective conviction, and is testament to our combination of skilled operators and the effective technology we employ."

Assisting the community

170 CCTVs are available to view via on-screen maps, with their selection via a simple onscreen touch of their location

In addition to a network of permanent cameras, Mansfield council also make use of a series of re-deployable cameras that can be readily located and re-located at emerging ‘hot spots' around the district. Cath continues: "We use re-deployable cameras to tackle any areas where anti-social or negative behaviour is surfacing. This maybe outside late night entertainment venues, where patrons are becoming a nuisance after hours, or within areas where small counts of petty vandalism, such as a recent incident of youths setting fire to refuse bins. Problems like this can be monitored and halted by our re-deployable units, before they have chance to escalate into a problem for the wider community."

Integrating the system into the community has always been a priority for Mansfield District Council, Cath continues: "A major part of the planning for any of the staged expansions of the CCTV system has always been to consult local residents and businesses to identify the areas which would most benefit from inclusion. We also receive regular updates at bi-weekly meetings of the Mansfield Safer Business Partnership. These meetings include myself, police, residents and local retailers, and provide a forum for a valuable exchange of information. This can help us to identify areas with a problematic undercurrent which we may not yet be aware of, enabling us to adjust our surveillance coverage to combat issues accordingly."

Mansfield's innovative use of CCTV and close collaboration with the police is illustrated in the key role the control room plays in enforcing local dispersal orders. Cath explains: "If the police issue an order to an individual on the street, typically for anti-social behaviour, the offender is asked to look at the nearest camera and say ‘CCTV', from this we can capture a crystal clear image of the offender and through the Synergy system, tag the image with details of the offence and the start and end time of the order. This gives operators instant access to the information, should the individual be seen in the area again, at which point, police can be instantly alerted. We have had numerous cases of orders being breeched, and some where offenders simply wait for the police to disappear out of sight, believing that they can then continue their actions undetected and return to the area to embark on the behaviour that gained them the order in the first place. Using the technology at our fingertips, these individuals are quickly identified and the police alerted, and the individual arrested for breech of the order if necessary."

Mansfield enjoys the benefits of having a highly skilled surveillance team, backed by effective technology

Skilled surveillance team

The team's skilled operator experience and innovative use of technology also extends to the programming of automated PTZ camera tours through the Synergy system. Cath explains: "We use a number of constantly adjusted tours, regularly updated by operators according to their experience of the changing situation within the scenes covered. This provides an enhanced surveillance capability to our team, with the reassurance from the Synectics system that as soon as a camera is placed on an operator's spot monitor, the camera immediately ceases its current tour, only to resume it when the camera feed is removed from the spot monitor.

"To be further effective, we employ different tours at different times of the day, for example, concentrating the surveillance monitoring within busy shopping areas during retail hours, and shifting the emphasis to popular night spots during the evening, with our operators in constant radio contact with shop and door security staff at the relevant times. We even have possible vehicular escape routes from high security establishments, such as banks, and cash in transit deliveries, automatically trackable via our sophisticated PTZ tours."

"Mansfield District Council continues to enjoy the benefits drawn from the employment of a highly skilled surveillance team, backed by effective, state-of-the-art technology, and whose continual development is aided by the demands placed on today's modern CCTV schemes such as ours."

Cath concludes: "The landscape of CCTV and its role within the wider community continues to change and will do so throughout the coming years. Today, it is as much about assisting the community as it is about catching criminals. To this ends, here at Mansfield, we appreciate the importance of keeping apace with the latest technologies, and this practice has been instrumental to our continual success."

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