Town centre CCTV remains largely unmonitored, council report reveals

CCTV cameras in three South Yorkshire town centres are only actively monitored for a third of the time because they all rely on the same control room staff to view them, it has emerged.

Wednesday, 16th January 2019, 2:46 pm
Updated Wednesday, 16th January 2019, 2:49 pm
Outdated: One of Barnsley's CCTV cameras

Details of the restrictions on CCTV systems covering Barnsley, Rotherham and Doncaster town centres have been revealed in a report which also reveals further shortcomings in the Barnsley system, as the council seeks to invest £700,00 in providing new high definition cameras and '˜horn' speakers which could be used to direct warning messages if crimes or emergency incidents were seen to be unfolding.

The authorities accept that some criminals regard CCTV as an '˜occupational hazard' and the revelation of limited coverage could dent the deterrent effect of the current arrangements.

However, new using new technology could mean a better service for Barnsley with less human intervention needed.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Members of Barnsley Council's ruling Cabinet will decide next week on whether to press ahead with the scheme, which would involve replacing 43 cameras in the town centre and another six covering the former pit village of Grimethorpe.

Councillors have been told the cameras are monitored at no charge by South Yorkshire Police, but a report explains: 'South Yorkshire Police monitor the CCTV system, free of charge within their control room which is based in Doncaster Council's Civic Building.

'It is monitored alongside Rotherham Council's and Doncaster Council's CCTV, therefore only a third of the time is spent monitoring Barnsley's cameras.'

The report also warns: 'South Yorkshire Police are currently carrying out a force wide review of CCTV, as such this may have implications to the monitoring or reviewing of CCTV systems.'

Barnsley's town centre cameras are more than 15 years old and use analogue recording, with obsolete equipment, and that means the quality of images can be too poor to identify those pictured.

The cameras also have a 45 degree field of vision, meaning they have to be moved manually by operators but it is proposed to replace the whole system with high definition recording equipment, providing sharp images, with each camera providing permanent 360 degree coverage.

If approved, upgrading the system would take place through the rest of 2019, with work expected to be completed by the Spring of next year and although it is accepted there would be temporary loss of coverage, the results are seen by the council as a boost to its work in regenerating the town centre, which is now well advanced.

The report states: 'The current cameras within the system offer a limited field of view and rely on operator input to identify and monitor on-going incidents.

'Each camera only covers the direction in which it is facing offering approximately 45 degrees of coverage from each column location at any given time.

'Modern technology allows for high definition quality equipment to be installed offering wider coverage and the ability for analytics in order to support the development of Barnsley into a '˜Smart City'

'Better coverage can be provided by the installation of new, modern technology and this will require less user input yet provide a better offer.'

The report adds that a new system: 'Allows for full coverage around each location without any user intervention in comparison with the current 45 degree coverage.

'At each column location there will also be a second, high definition camera installed that allows full pan, tilt and zoom functionality. This can be operator controlled or can be intelligently and automatically controlled utilising video feeds from the 360 degree camera.'

Currently technology means the cameras would not need to be actively monitored full time, but screens would be installed at inspectors' and sergeants' offices for 'pro-active viewing during key periods of time for the purposes of detection and prevention of crime,' according to the report.

Optional monitoring stations could be considered in the future at locations such as the CCTV room within the Glass Works, however this is dependent on connectivity into the building which is currently being established as part of the public realm works. 4.10 Analytics software installed on the cameras will only be viewable by authorised Council Officers and this will be restricted in order to maintain system security. 4.11 The proposed system will provide better coverage despite being potentially unstaffed by operators for a period of time in-line with point 4.4 above. Owing to the proposed technology each current camera location will automatically increase its coverage by 75% without any form of user intervention. 4.12 The new system will allow for the interconnectivity of other systems, including Urban Traffic Control, Lightbox and Glasswork CCTV system.