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Local opinions on Portsmouth Smart CCTV installation

Smart CCTV : 11 December, 2008  (Application Story)
Dan Whitworth of Newsbeat interviews locals on the impact of intelligent surveillance systems installed in the south coast city of Portsmouth
Anti-social behaviour has become a familiar site in some towns and cities across the country. Now there's a new weapon in the fight against it called Smart CCTV. Portsmouth City Council is the first, and so far only, local authority in the UK to try out the new system.

It's a computer programme that has been integrated into the city's existing network of 152 cameras and has been programmed to spot unusual behaviour in places and at times when it's not expected.

For example, a speeding car being driven around an empty car park could be a joy rider or someone running through a deserted shopping precinct late at night might be a vandal.
When those and similar scenarios are 'spotted' by the software, using special parameters from programmers, an alarm is sounded which alerts CCTV operators to that particular camera.

Ray Stead, who runs the CCTV operation for Portsmouth City Council, says that Smart CCTV takes some of the strain off human operators who make the decision about whether or not to call the police. Ray said: 'With the total number of CCTV cameras that we have, 152, the operators cannot see all of those cameras or monitor them live. So this software programme will actually help the operators become more effective.'

It's already been used in parts of seven cities across America, in places like New York and Washington DC, where the feedback has been positive.

Nick Hewitson helped design the version Portsmouth City Council is using. He said: 'It filters out all the rubbish video that you don't want and lets you see the stuff that you do want. So you're using human beings for doing what they do well, making subjective decisions on incomplete data and using computers to do what they do well, process tons and tons of boring data.'

However, not everyone in Portsmouth is as convinced by the new system as Ray Stead and Nick Hewitson. Samilia Narcho, 19, thinks the system is too much of an invasion of privacy and said that they intrude into people's business which is a bit unfair on those who aren't doing anything wrong.

18-year-old Chris isn't worried about being watched and said: 'It doesn't really bother me because I'm not doing anything wrong, so I've got nothing to worry about.'

Berry, who's 24 said: 'I think it's pretty good because there are a lot of idiots in Portsmouth and they need to be kept under wraps.'

The Smart CCTV technology is on trial in Portsmouth but if it proves successful, other UK cities could set up similar systems
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