Much is written about the sheer scale of camera surveillance currently employed here in the U.K., but little is said about the enormous quantity of images recorded, and how best they can be managed to help tackle life's everyday problems.
This week, London's Victoria Business Improvement District (BID) became the first commercial organisation to announce their support for the use of Facewatch, a unique new incident and CCTV reporting system aimed at tackling everyday low level crime.
One of the key problems for businesses routinely affected by offences such as shoplifting and bag theft, is the difficulty in rapidly providing the police with both detailed information of the incident, and also accompanying CCTV images of the suspects.
Now with the launch of Facewatch, business managers can within minutes, fill out an online report form and attach any relevent CCTV recordings or still images, which are then immediately uploaded to a secure server.
Whilst the incident is being automatically logged with a unique crime reference number, and passed to the police for further action, other registered members of their group can easily access vital information, to help locate or assist in identifying the individuals involved.
At the official launch event held 18th November 2010 at the Central Hall Westminster, a packed audience heard from a number of key speakers, who provided a compelling case for the undoubted benefits that Facewatch can provide.
Mike Noakes, the Chair of the BID, opened proceedings by outlining the diverse and vibrant nature of Victoria, and how both their comprehensive CCTV system, and excellent co-ordinated working relationships with the Metropolitan and British Transport Police services, has contriibuted to Victoria's standing as one of the safest areas in the City of Westminster.
His colleague Nic Harper, Chair of the Safe and Secure Victoria BID committee, outlined the steps being taken to help ensure the safety and security of businesses, residents and visitors to the area, and how their commitment to Facewatch will only serve to improve the way in which they proactively tackle crime, in partnership with the local police.
The theme was picked up by Detective Chief Inspector Mick Neville, the officer in charge of the Metropolitan Police specialist VIIDO Unit, which is tasked with fulfilling a vital Forensic Surveillance role, in retrieving and processing CCTV images to help solve crimes right across the capital.
Although CCTV is routinely deployed by businesses with a view to providing an immediate and dependable means of identifying suspects, "... it could do a lot more" he said.
Whilst highlighting that 75% of offenders routinely plead guilty when shown incriminating CCTV footage, DCI Neville went on to say that "Your CCTV will only ever prevent crime, if the criminals know it will lead to their arrest"; a technique which Doktor Jon has long championed as the concept of 'Deterrence through Detection' or 'DtD'.
The adoption of Facewatch by a total of 31 businesses, including retail outlets, restaurants, bars, pubs, cafes and even the Victoria Coach Station, will allow the BID to effectively evaluate the concept, and if proven successful, look towards rolling it out throughout the district.
There's little doubt that Facewatch has the potential to provide that missing link between capturing suspects on CCTV, and quickly providing the police with both recordings and standardised format documentation, that can so easily help to bring a criminal to court.
Simon Gordon, owner of Gordens Wine Bar and the founder of Facewatch, explained to the audience how having been on the receiving end of numerous petty crimes and witnessed first hand the effects on customers who become victims, he felt deeply frustrated at the inherent delays and unsatisfactory outcomes, in a modern day world where technology could so easily provide a ready solution.
Since setting up Facewatch and trialling it first hand, thefts in his wine bar "... have halved this year", and whilst the system is already proving it's value in helping to identify local criminals, the very useful built in analysis functions are also flagging previously unidentified high risk periods, where addititonal security can then be far more effectively deployed, at a much lower cost.
Members of the Facewatch scheme can also easily access CPP's card protection service using a dedicated helpline, so in situations where a customer has for example been the victim of a bag snatch, all their cards can be locked down, preventing any further unpleasant consequences.
Former BBC Crime Reporter Neil Bennett effectively summed up the presentations by observing that whilst it can normally take up to a month for the police to process a low level crime CCTV image into their system, this new service can produce much the same result in a matter of hours ... "Facewatch is an idea who's time has come" he said.
Given the vital need to achieve rapid improvements in CCTV effectiveness, particularly in the shadow of the current economic situation, undoubtedly Facewatch has the potential to dramatically increase crime detections, and longer term help businesses to significantly reduce their vulnerabilities to certain categories of offences.
For further details on:-
Facewatch - visit www.facewatch.co.uk
The Victoria Business Improvement District - visit www.inSW1.com
FOOTNOTE:- The effectiveness of a service like Facewatch is very much dependent on retrieving good quality CCTV images; with this in mind, the very latest developments in Doktor Jon's ongoing TRUSTED© CCTV improvement project are scheduled to be announced shortly.
IMPORTANT: No material may be reproduced, copied or redistributed from this site, without the express written consent of doktorjon.co.uk
All the detailed information on this site is provided in good faith; and as such, Doktor Jon does not accept responsibility for any consequential loss, injury or disadvantage resulting from any individual or organisation acting on the details contained herein.
© doktorjon.co.uk 2004 - 2010