The benefits of an innovative partnership in CCTV
Dallmeier’s innovative approach to CCTV provision in the Cornish town of Looe is demonstrating that the benefits of a high-quality, monitored system are even within the reach of smaller towns with limited budgets.
Looe is a busy seaside town and fishing port built around a harbour and river in south-east Cornwall. It has a population of about 5,000 and its main business is summer tourism, although it remains popular all year round as a shopping and entertainment centre for the local area. Four organisations, including Looe Town Council, are responsible for different areas of the town, thanks to its complex geography and ownership. As well as the council, there are also separate town trusts for East Looe and West Looe, while Looe Harbour Commissioners own and run the fish market and harbour area.
A co-operative relationship between Looe Town Council, the police, installer Perspective CCTV Ltd and Dallmeier has resulted in a service that is tailored to the town’s needs while avoiding unnecessary expenses such as full-time dedicated monitoring. Perspective’s monitoring team in Essex is available at the end of a phone line so that officers on patrol can request real-time information if they need to know what is happening elsewhere in town. The system’s owner, Looe Town Council, gives the police unlimited access to the recordings for investigating incidents.
Safeguarding the town
“The main aims are to assist the police and make people feel safer. The most important issue is the behaviour of youngsters on Friday and Saturday nights,” says Looe Town Clerk Anne Frith.
“Like most modern towns, there are problems arising from excessive use of alcohol. “There is vandalism – in particular shop windows are smashed,” adds Cllr Joy.
Proof of the system’s value came very quickly. “It had only been live for two days when the police used it to catch someone who had broken into the jeweller’s,” says Anne Frith. “It has also assisted the police in one or two minor assaults since then and with investigation of other minor crimes where vandalism has been involved,” adds Councillor Michael Joy. The police have visited the council’s offices on several occasions to look at images and the recordings have also been used to provide evidence with regard to damage caused by an over-sized lorry entering the town’s narrow streets.
Six cameras cover key vantage points in the town, linked to Dallmeier M-DMS 4 recorders which are in two separate locations, but can both be monitored from the Town Council’s office. Dallmeier recorders were chosen for their quality, reliability and ease of use on the recommendation of Perspective, which is a strong advocate of the equipment following extensive experience.
The cameras are sited in public areas, including the car park and key junctions on the main roads which provide the best overall pictures of what is happening in the town. Careful positioning at these strategic points ensures the capture of images of everyone and every vehicle passing along the main streets. “Perspective has done a good job for us – we’ve no complaints at all,” says Mrs Frith. Most of the cameras are domes with built-in IR lighting to provide clear night-time shots.
Looe Harbour Commissioners already had a similar Dallmeier-based system and so a large part of the town is covered between the two networks. East Looe Town Trust has also recently installed a CCTV network, further boosting the town’s coverage.
Although Looe Town Council has provided the system, it is primarily intended for police use both in investigating any incidents and, more unusually, in calling for live information from the installer’s monitoring centre in Essex. This is where the system’s main long-term benefit lies, according to Perspective CCTV Ltd director Andrew Oakes.
The system can be accessed at any time from the monitoring control room, should the council or police need help. “We also do a ’dial-in patrol‘ at night – we connect and scan through all the cameras every hour,” says Mr Oakes. An out-of-hours number is available for use by any police officer requiring assistance.
Police officers currently visit the council’s offices whenever they want to view the CCTV images on a dedicated computer there, though there are plans for the Dallmeier viewing software to be installed at the police station. Even then, the monitoring service would remain useful as Looe’s police officers are generally out on patrol at night and so would not normally have anyone available to monitor the CCTV system.
A snapshot image has been taken from each camera to remind the police of its field of view. When they are on patrol, they will know whether an incident is likely to have been captured by a particular camera. “They could be at one end of town while something is happening at the other end,” says Mr Oakes. “Now, they can call us, and someone will look at the screen and describe what is happening elsewhere. We become a backup to the local police.” For instance, the Perspective team could give a live description over the phone of where suspects are heading.
It will be easy to add new cameras to the Dallmeier recording system, thanks to built-in expansion capabilities. “We will probably expand camera coverage towards the sea front,” says Mrs Frith. This will cover a dead zone between the town centre’s network and the one belonging to East Looe Town Trust, which owns the seafront. “I’m quite sure that as time goes on the CCTV will continue to become even more useful,” she says. “People get very emotive about ‘big brother’ but if you look at most cities and towns that have a CCTV system it does actually improve the quality of life for residents and visitors,” adds Cllr Joy.