Sleaford’s £49,000 upgraded CCTV system is now fully operational and The Standard was invited behind the scenes to see just how good it is.
The cameras went ‘live’ in April, switching from the 20-year-old, analogue system linked to Grantham, to a new digital system with enhanced picture quality as part of a five-year contract with Boston Borough Council, predicted to save £100,000.
NKDC and Sleaford Town Council joint-fund the seven-camera system, designed to help with missing people, shop crime, assaults and anti-social behaviour.
CCTV manager Andrew Haw heads up the control room in the bowels of Boston’s council buildings. His team monitor Boston, Sleaford and Spalding’s cameras 24 hours a day and will soon be taking on East Lindsey’s screens too, but he said they have a flexible staffing system which can increase in number to react to peak periods.
NKDC Community Safety Manager Heidi Ryder is extremely pleased with the improved picture quality as can be seen on the bank of screens across the back wall of the ‘bunker’. These are used as an over view for spotting things ‘out of the ordinary’.
That extra detail can make the difference in identifying suspects, offering concrete evidence in court.
Mr Haw said: “The cameras have x30 optical zoom whereas the old ones were about x12.
“The images stored are similar to your HD television at home, although our operators use a lower resolution picture on their desktops for maneouvring cameras.”
The operators are in live contact with police, Shopwatch and Pubwatch teams. Anything unusual is quickly picked up by operators who can then focus attention and manpower on an area.
Mr Haw said with the addition of the coastal towns they have plans in place to cope with the extra demand of the tourist season. He said no areas will be ‘overlooked’. “An operator figures out where and when to be looking, rather than a scattergun approach,” he explained.
Plans will be in place for peak periods in Sleaford too, such as Christmas Market and Armed Forces Day.
When an incident is recorded, police officers are then required to come in and review the footage which can then be copied for evidence. Mr Haw said: “CCTV evidence is seen as ‘Gospel’ and if done wrongly we could destroy the goodwill we have with the courts.”
Mrs Ryder said: “The Borough Council has been so supportive, when not long ago the system was at risk of being lost completely due to cuts.”