Centralised CCTV protection

August 2008 Access Control & Identity Management

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 trainline. With the system now totalling 170 cameras, the majority are relayed back to the control room via a 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' SynergyPro software control and modular digital recording system (MDRS) solution.

Selecting a solution

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 best CCTV technology we could, and the optimum solution that would best suit our diverse monitoring requirements.

"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 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 trials, the Synectics SynergyPro and MDRS recording solution stood out 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 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 system's technical capabilities relevant to us, and the level of aftersales 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 screen touch of their location, that is, in addition to selection by camera number.

Bannister 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."

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.

Bannister 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 is 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 to also record the system's matrix audio. "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 Bannister.

Recording in realtime, 24hrs a day, Mansfield's 93 TB of Synectics MDRS digital storage permits instantly accessible, retrospective video review from each operator's 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.

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.

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

For more informaton contact Philip Longley, managing director, Synectics Security Networks, +44 0114 255 2509, philip.longley@synx.com

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