Harrogate Borough Council has invested over £100,000 in improving its CCTV control room. This investment has seen the replacement of outdated monitors with eight state of the art 42 inch flat screen monitors. This follows on from a digital recording upgrade in 2009.
The centrally based control room receives images from 186 cameras across the Harrogate district including Knaresborough, Ripon and Boroughbridge. Staff have dealt with over 2250 incidents since April this year, providing over 400 discs of surveillance evidence to the police to aid their investigations.
Councillor Margaret Atkinson, the council’s Cabinet Member for Public Protection and Rural Affairs, says that the eight full time operators and their supervisor now have a better working environment and the most up to date technology at their fingertips.
Councillor Atkinson added:
These new monitors allow immediate access to the camera network through a touch screen with mapping software which allows them to find locations very quickly.
The images that operators see and record are first-class there are no grainy images similar to those you often see on TV programmes.
It reassures me that we are able to provide first class images for court cases and the evidence we provide plays a significant part in prosecutions.
I am very impressed by this upgrade and also the professionalism of the staff who works shifts 24/7/365 days a year.
The control room has direct links to North Yorkshire Police via the police airwaves system. This allows the police and CCTV control room operators to speak directly and aids in the prevention and detection of crime, anti-social behaviour and other welfare issues. In addition to the links to the police, the control room offers a service to pubs clubs and retailers in Harrogate, Ripon and Knaresborough via a dedicated radio communications system.
This service, which users subscribe to, enables a prompt response to issues such as shoplifting, drunk and rowdy behaviour, lost vulnerable members of the community and generally keep our district safe. Working in conjunction with the police and members of the Radiolink scheme, intelligence is shared about known offenders, offending patterns including travelling criminals.
Julia Stack Community Safety and CCTV Manager commented that her staff are highly trained and are able to identify individuals who may be acting suspiciously within the surveillance area.
Julia Slack added:
If you are going about your normal business it is unlikely that you will come to our attention, however if your body language is out of character we may well take a closer look, to check you are ok or to alert store detectives, PCSOs or the police.
We know who the repeat offenders are and my staff are quick to inform radio users, providing a robust surveillance service.
This latest upgrade to our control room is also allowing the council to explore providing services for other agencies including neighbouring councils.
Superintendent Aubrey Smith, Harrogate District Commander North Yorkshire Police values the contribution that CCTV provides.
The cameras are an excellent resource and we are very fortunate that we have a close working relationship with the council, my officers can rely on an immediate response from the CCTV operators which greatly assists our investigations.
The benefits of the CCTV can be show during a recent fire at Debenhams in Harrogate.
On 28th September, shortly after midnight a CCTV operator as part of their routine patrols spotted a small fire in a wheelie bin at the side loading bay of Debenhams. The prompt action alerted the fire service to the incident and they were able to attend the scene to contain the fire. Without the prompt action of the operator the fire could have taken hold and developed into a major fire, although there was still fire damage to stock.
Mal Austwick, North Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service commended the prompt action of CCTV staff:
Without the quick actions of the staff in the CCTV control room we could have been dealing with a far worse situation. The staff are helping police with their enquiries and it is hoped that a prosecution will follow, the CCTV evidence will be valuable in any court case.