Crime reduction commitment from First Capital Connect

Posted: 1 August 2008 | | No comments yet

With First Capital Connect’s new CCTV control centre now in operation, Tony Holland, Crime Prevention Manager, outlines how it will help them further increase security and reduce crime on the Network.

With First Capital Connect’s new CCTV control centre now in operation, Tony Holland, Crime Prevention Manager, outlines how it will help them further increase security and reduce crime on the Network.

With First Capital Connect’s new CCTV control centre now in operation, Tony Holland, Crime Prevention Manager, outlines how it will help them further increase security and reduce crime on the Network.

Crime and anti-social behaviour are generally low on the railway and at First Capital Connect we are committed  to the security of our customers and staff. In the first two years of our franchise crime has been reduced by 15 and 17% and at some of our stations, crime has been almost halved.

A number of factors have helped play their part in this. We have invested over  £1 million in 24 Police Community Support Officers and five police officers that are dedicated to our route. We hold regular crime prevention railshows, have invested heavily in automatic ticket gatelines and keep security as a top priority.

In April 2008 we officially opened  our £1 million CCTV Control Centre. This will give us an extra tool as we continue to keep crime low and security  of our customers high.

A few days after the centre opened,  a man was robbed of his iPod at Luton Station to the north of our network in Bedfordshire in the early hours of the morning. Just over an hour later the suspect for the crime was arrested at West Hampstead Station in North West London and he has since been charged with robbery. The victim had alerted a member of our station staff who then informed the CCTV control centre, and provided a description. About 30 minutes later, the suspect was spotted again boarding a London bound train and the CCTV controller moved into action.

The operator noted the number of the train the suspect was boarding and used CCTV to monitor footage at every station the train passed through as it headed to London. All the time, the team was in touch with the British Transport Police who were following the situation at the control centre.

The train passed through eight stations managed by First Capital Connect, and the suspect was still on board. At the ninth stop the suspect alighted at West Hampstead in North London. The suspect was arrested within minutes at West Hampstead station and charges have now been processed.

This was one early success of the Centre, and I am sure more will follow, and by promoting such success stories, will help prevent these crimes occurring  in the first place.

The Control Centre provides us with state-of-the-art equipment that is manned 24 hours a day, by First Capital Connect staff and the British Transport Police. The footage is live and if a crime is committed, we have an operator with an officer from the British Transport Police ready to act.

The centre

The Central Control Centre opened in April 2008 and is early into our franchise (which could run until 2015) so this gives us a great opportunity to build on the previous work.

We teamed up with Enfield Borough Council to announce a unique partnership at CCTV Centre. The Council already had a Public Safety Centre that was undergoing a refurbishment by Siemens Building Technologies Security Systems.

Space was allocated within the centre for a First Capital Connect section and we began to work to set up the facility towards the end of 2007. We have over 1,000 cameras across our network that are now monitored 24 hours a day by our team of operators and a member of the British Transport Police. Some of the stations included are Luton Airport Parkway, Finsbury Park, St Albans, Bedford, Elephant and Castle and City Thameslink.

The Central Control Centre is also connected to over 100 help points we have at our stations – which provide real time information and reassurance to our customers. At the Central Control Centre, Enfield Borough Council controls around 250 cameras in Enfield and neighbouring Waltham Forest. First Capital Connect manages some stations in this area and this allows us to work jointly on operations when required.

We use cameras with a powerful zoom and the centre allows for digital recording at 12 frames a second.

The centre stores data for up to  31 days as recommended by the  Home Office and allows the supervisor and their team to immediately log all incidents electronically resulting in fact-filled reports.

The project

The control centre has coincided with the upgrade of station CCTV equipment across the First Capital Connect network. In July 2007, FCC selected award-winning specialist security and communications systems integrator, ATEC Security, to  take on the challenge of upgrading its CCTV system.

The project has taken over 10,000 man hours and was delivered in under eight months which is a great achievement as it covers a great geographical area – we manage stations from South London through to Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Norfolk.

Also, the installation couldn’t disrupt ongoing CCTV coverage. ATEC developed a programme to meet the FCC’s tight timescales ahead of the launch of the CCTV Control Centre, putting stations into 12 groups to gain maximum efficiencies and ensured that work on the ground was frequently ahead of programme and not disrupting recordings.

Following extensive simulations, ATEC implemented full bandwidth management to ensure peaceful cohabitation between the new system and FCC’s existing network traffic.

With no temperature controlled environment to safely house servers and IP transmitters and a lack of space at most FCC sites, ATEC developed a compact form factor server to deliver high capacity redundant storage in a very short timeframe and, where necessary, provided secure and durable on-platform cabinets to house the equipment.

ATEC also managed to rate IP transmitters and servers to temperatures not normally found in IT rooms. This required ATEC’s Research and Development team to adapt testing and server configuration months before the contract was even awarded. ATEC was committed to ensuring delivery of the right solution in the required timescales.

Now we have what we believe is leading systems in the industry. We estimate that we can record nearly 1.3 billion images a day and all digitally in a central point. This has freed up lots of space for us at stations where previous footage used to be stored. The system can now handle multiple streams with, for example, high bandwidth for recording and local live viewing and low bandwidth for remote monitoring. The bandwidth can be adjusted according to requirements and is monitored to maximise network efficiency.

To ensure the system is able to provide large-scale evidential quality footage quickly with minimal disruption to the system, ATEC developed a process that enables all of the hard drives for a six terabyte storage server to be safely removed and replaced within ten minutes. The server then commences recording on the new hard drives at the same time as re-building the RAID storage array.  The original drives can be replaced in a dedicated server chassis, which is located in the control room, and effectively reviewed by the British Transport Police.

We believe that CCTV, together with our other initiatives, gives us great support in continuing to reduce crime and anti-social behaviour. This was emphasised by Chief Superintendent Mark Newton, Area Commander of London North British Transport Police who said: “This is a great example of partnership working between Enfield Council, First Capital Connect and the British Transport Police. Working together, we are committed to increasing community safety and reducing crime and the fear of crime on the railways. Such a unique scheme, which will help coordinate crime prevention and incident management, may well become a blueprint for similar initiatives across the country in the future.”

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