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Swansea police tackle anti-social behaviour with PatrolVu

TSS (Traffic Safety Systems) : 31 August, 2009  (Application Story)
Anti-social behaviour, illegal off-road motorcycling, crowd disorder and unauthorised taxis in South Wales lead Swansea police to equip a high visibility patrol van with PatrolVu mobile CCTV system from Traffic Safety Systems to provide an immediate response and evidence gathering capability
Swansea police tackle anti-social behaviour with PatrolVu
A PatrolVu mobile digital CCTV system from TSS (Traffic Safety Systems) - part of AD Group - has been successfully deployed to address specific crime and disorder issues in the Swansea area of South Wales, ranging from illegal off-road bikers to underage drinking and anti-social behaviour.

The state-of-the-art TSS solution is integrated into a high visibility Mercedes Sprinter van operated by Safer Swansea, a multi-agency community partnership which brings together representatives from the City and County of Swansea Council, South Wales Police and other key organisations.

Fitted out by TSS, the vehicle is a truly mobile, rapidly deployable, CCTV system that can go to any hotspot in minutes and, should the 'problem' relocate, continue to monitor the situation on the move. The Safer Swansea van features three low light CCTV cameras - two with full Pan Tilt and Zoom - a mast-mounted unit on the roof, a second roof mounted camera and one looking forward through the front windscreen. In the back of the vehicle there are two on-board monitors for image review plus advanced digital recording and control equipment.

According to Gareth Pritchard, a Partnership Enforcement Officer with Safer Swansea, who is responsible for the vehicle's on-going operation and helps to train police staff and others on its use: 'The decision to adopt a mobile CCTV vehicle came about from a requirement to monitor remote areas of Swansea where there was no current CCTV provision and, consequently, it would be prohibitive to set-up a permanent CCTV infrastructure.

'We had already considered, but discounted, battery-powered hotspot cameras which could be installed, temporarily, in specific locations. From discussions with TSS it was apparent that they would be able to offer us a better, more flexible and economical vehicle-based solution based around their PatrolVu digital CCTV system.'

The scope of the mobile CCTV vehicle's deployment by Safer Swansea is extremely wide ranging. In recent times it has been tasked with monitoring music events, fans on match days, anti-social behaviour, off-road motor bikes, high visibility city centre patrols and illegal taxi operations.

Said Gareth: 'From an operational point of view, I see the benefits of the mobile CCTV as being primarily: the ability to reassure the public; to act as a powerful deterrent to criminal activity; its low cost of operation and to provide a flexible resource for the crime and disorder partnership. One measure of success, to date, is the fact that whenever the vehicle is deployed, especially in response to anti-social behaviour, the number of complaints from members of the public drops dramatically - in some cases to zero. '

As with many other areas of the UK, Swansea is having to face-up to the reality of underage drinking and anti-social behaviour and the impact it has on the community.

This was becoming a particular concern for residents of Gowerton, a village on the outskirts of the city, who were suffering from a high level of such incidents. As a result, in June, an operation took place which saw the mobile CCTV vehicle rotated around five different parts of Gowerton over a single weekend.

Said Gareth Pritchard, a Partnership Enforcement Officer with Safer Swansea: 'The impact of the CCTV vehicle's deployment on the situation in the village was immediate, with a 75% fall in calls from residents regarding anti-social behaviour on the weekend in question. We also found that the attitude of potential troublemakers improved dramatically once they knew they were being filmed. Significantly, none of the individuals we spoke to about their disruptive behaviour returned to the area while we were there. It was also pleasing to see that this high visibility approach had a residual impact. Even when the vehicle was not deployed calls from concerned residents were still lower than usual for several subsequent weekends.'

The success in Gowerton has been parallelled by the positive action which Safer Swansea's mobile CCTV vehicle has been taking in coastal car parks within a 25 mile radius of Swansea. Given their geographically isolated locations such car parks can become hotspots for vehicle crime. This is especially true during the summer months as more visitors venture into the area.

Commented Gareth: 'As well as car theft, the car parks had become the focus for drug taking and were being used as a race circuit by 'boy racers' - with all the associated risks and disturbance to nearby residents. Again, in this case, we have found that the appearance of our TSS-equipped CCTV vehicle has had a positive impact on incidents, with calls from the public regarding these problems stopping almost completely during the deployment. With this type of operation we tend to rotate the PatrolVu-equipped vehicle around sites so keeping those who may be contemplating criminal activity guessing as to our next appearance.'

Another perennial issue for the police and local authorities in the UK is illegal off-road bikers and Swansea is certainly no exception in this regard. Having been raised as a priority problem in partnership and community meetings, the Safer Swansea mobile CCTV vehicle was given a central role recently, as part of multi-agency operations, to deter bikers from riding on park land or taking illegal bikes onto the public highway. Those caught undertaking these activities were given Section 59 warnings - effectively this means that if they are caught riding illegally again their bikes will be confiscated.

When it comes to the persistent problem of illegal taxis in Swansea city centre, the evidence provided by mobile CCTV, once parked-up, has proved to be invaluable, allowing the Safer Swansea team to readily monitor taxi licensing and to clamp down on private taxis coming into Swansea and picking people up from authorised taxi ranks.

The CCTV vehicle is also frequently called upon to assist with crowd control. A good example is Escape in the Park, a large annual dance music event held in the centre of Swansea which attracts up to 25,000 people. Commented Gareth: 'We typically position the CCTV van at the main gate to help control the crowd and monitor any potential public disorder issues caused by individuals making their way into the event. The overt presence of the vehicle usually keeps things running smoothly and - in the unlikely event that something should kick-off - we can rapidly zoom in on any incident to assess the situation and take immediate action to prevent an escalation. The digital CCTV evidence gathered by the PatrolVu system is invaluable to support any subsequent prosecutions should further action be necessary.'

In addition to music events, Safer Swansea's mobile CCTV is regularly in action to supporting policing on football matchdays. Said Gareth: 'Last season I was involved in the monitoring of the Charlton Athletic and Swansea City game. Through careful planning we were able to take the van into the city centre pre-game to focus on the bars and pubs where 'risk supporters', from a Swansea perspective, were likely to congregate - basically fans who our football intelligence people have flagged-up as causing problems in the past. By parking-up and keeping an eye on these specific individuals - and by using Section 27 of the Criminal Reform Act to ban potential troublemakers from the city centre for 12 hours - clashes with visiting Charlton fans were keep to a minimum and the game passed off without any major disruption.'

Commented Ron Coleman, Marketing Director at Traffic Safety Systems (TSS): 'We are delighted with the operational benefits which our PatrolVu mobile CCTV solution has delivered for Gareth Pritchard and his team at Safer Swansea.

"The sheer scope of their operations underlines the flexibility of this approach to CCTV, allowing a powerful resource to be deployed as a strong deterrent to criminal and anti-social behaviour; to readily reduce the severity of incidents in progress and, should the need arise, to deliver vital evidence for potential prosecutions.'
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