HUNDREDS of CCTV cameras will now watch the streets of Swindon as a centralised network went live this week.
The final high-definition feed will be connected to the network from the new Whalebridge car park today, bringing more than 500 live feeds into a central control room at Waterside Park.
Monitored 24 hours a day by 16 paid staff, the feeds will help alert the emergency services and council officers to problems as they develop in real-time, in a bid to cut anti-social behaviour and criminal damage.
Around 100 high-definition cameras have been installed to cover the town centre, including the Fleet Street and Bridge Street areas that councillors and publicans have been calling for for some time.
Wiltshire Police, InSwindon and Swindon Council will share information on known criminals and trouble hotspots to create a more efficient security system throughout the town.
The project has been almost two years in the making and cost £100,000 to implement, the majority coming from goodwill funds from housing developers, with annual running costs of £90,000 being covered by the office of the Police and Crime Comissioner, InSwindon, and Swindon Council.
Mark Stratford, security manager for the council, said the operation would help save money across the board.
“We have got around 500 cameras scattered about the borough for community safety and anti-social behaviour,” he said.
“If you go back to when we first started, the amount of money being spent on repairs was huge.
“Now we have the cameras fitted, we have almost no damage reported in places like high rise flats and community buildings.”
Meanwhile, Mark Walker, the council’s locality lead for the town centre, said: “We have got a live board of cameras owned by the existing shopping centres looking at the public realm and have added new high-definition cameras in the town centre to supplement them.
“Over the last 12 to 18 months we have worked together with local businesses, inSwindon, and the police to bring all these things together to have the most efficient network.
“With the completion of the network this week we now have quite an innovative system. While most use fibre-optics, in Swindon we are at the forefront of using 4G. The whole thing has been an incremental process, and different parts have come online at different stages.
“If we see one major incident and act quickly upon it we can save thousands of pounds for the health budget, so savings will be made everywhere. Our security staff can react straight away if any businesses are broken into, reducing risks and hopefully working more closely with small businesses.
“We now have pro-active monitoring of all the images 24/7, with the ability of our controllers here to contact the blue light services as required in real time”
Town centre Inspector Paul Saunders welcomed the new technology, which could help prevent, detect and solve crimes.
“We are fully supportive of the new CCTV system being introduced in Swindon town centre and hope it will not only reduce the number of incidents but also provide us with another outlet to gather evidence,” he said.
Emma Faramarzi, cabinet member for housing and public safety, said the cameras were not for spying on residents but would act as a deterrent.
She said: “We don’t want to be telling people how they should or should not be living their lives, and this is more of a deterrent than anything else.#