Super-advanced surveillance equipment installed in Mansfield this week has made it the most advanced town in the county for fighting crime, it has been claimed..
More than half-a-million pounds has been ploughed into upgrading the CCTV system by Mansfield District Council with around 130 high-definition cameras now keeping a sharp eye over the town and beyond.
The ultra-modern wireless system is monitored around the clock by staff purposely employed for the job at the Civic Centre on Chesterfield Road South.
The new technology, which was unveiled this week, has been years in the planning and has been welcomed by portfolio for public protection, Councillor Mick Barton.
He said: “This is the beginning of something new and we are bringing this into the 21st century.
“This is newest system in Nottinghamshire and the most modern, it’s been a long-drawn-out job but we’ve finally arrived.
“A few years ago we decided that needed to invest and that was decided by the whole council, so that’s how it started.
“We have gone wireless and brought all the costs down, but we’ve spent about £550,000 which I don’t think is that expensive, I think it’s value for money.
“This system is so much better, the quality is just brilliant and we see it as a deterrent.
“The police are happy with what we’ve done but this is not just about fighting crime, there are vulnerable or missing people who could be in the town that need finding.”
As part of the financial outlay, the control room has been radically advanced.
Out have gone the grainy, aging monitors, replaced with numerous modern flat-screen devices with the capability to closely zero-in on areas of interest.
Such are their clarity, the cameras have the capability to focus on the badge of a shirt from several hundred metres away.
Nine staff are now employed on three shift patterns, meaning workers are in the control room 24 hours a day.
The cameras cover most of the town centre, as well as parts of Mansfield Woodhouse, Warsop and Pleasley Vale.
Some cameras can be redeployed to areas with problems, while others are even fitted PA systems so staff can speak to people who are being monitored.
While some may regard it as an invasion of privacy, or see it as another step towards a ‘nanny state’, the statistics show why the equipment is necessary.
In the past six months the old camera system has helped in more than 3,486 incidents.
Most are not crime-related, but in the cases where the incident was an arrestable offence, more than 42 per cent led to someone being detained.
And it’s not a case of trawling through hours of footage to find a clip that could be vital for a police investigation.
Senior operator for the system at Mansfield District Council, Gareth Batten-Jones, has worked with CCTV for more than 18 years and said: “We used to have 64 cassettes running all day recording so you could imagine how long it would take to find something that you wanted.
“Now it would take seconds. You just have to look at how Mansfield town centre is protected by this.”
All footage is deleted after 31 days, unless there is a legitimate reason for keeping them, and it can be used in court to help secure a conviction.
The council is now exploring commercial opportunities to help make the system more cost effective.
Businesses in and around the town are being urged to pay into the scheme to have their own premises protected by CCTV and monitored through the council’s advanced new system.
Nine customers have already signed up, with the council insisting it can “suit any budget”.
CCTV consultant Carl Chippendale said of the system: “One of the most important things was to provide for future growth and third-party monitoring.
“The other system was very antiquated and became more and more expensive to monitor and repair.
“This puts Mansfield more in control than they were in the past.”
For Coun Mick Barton, the installation has opened endless opportunities.
“We want our wardens wearing cameras as well, which is about protecting our staff, but that’s for the future,” he said.
“The next step is to have CCTV at all our parks because there’s a lot of assets in there that we want to protect.
“I know people says it’s like being watched by big brother but if people are opt doing anything wrong there’s no need for them to worry.”