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Caithness News Bulletins September 2004

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LAUNCH OF 200,000 UPGRADED PUBLIC SPACE CCTV SERVICES IN HIGHLAND

A much improved Close Circuit TV System - serving Dingwall, Fort William, Inverness, Nairn, Tain and Thurso - should not only make the citizens of these communities feel safer but will help the police to secure convictions.

The Highland Council, as community safety leaders, has spent 200,000 on integrating the network and providing an efficient and consistently high standard of service across its area.

A total of 49 cameras in the six communities have been replaced with state of the art digital recording systems. Monitoring operates in both colour and black and white, the latter often required for sharper images during the hours of darkness in some locations.

Monitoring staff are in radio contact with police officers, traffic wardens, shopkeepers, publicans should an incident occur. Digital film is now easier to retrieve and is being used in court to secure convictions.

The Council embarked on improving and integrating the network of Highland CCTV systems in 2002. At that time, local public space CCTV systems operated independently with each local group having accessed capital funding from a variety of sources, including the Scottish Executive, local council common good funds, Local Enterprise Companies and the business community.

The systems in Dingwall, Fort William, Inverness and Nairn were ageing and were facing escalating annual maintenance charges, which the business community were finding difficult to sustain. The technology used in the old systems was increasingly outdated making maintenance ever more difficult.

The Council took ownership of these local systems and invested money using Common Good funding, Community Safety finance and general council funding to refurbish the camera equipment on the streets and the monitoring equipment in each local police station. Included within the partnership are the two more modern networks developed in Thurso and Tain.

Following an open procurement process, the Council commissioned Scotshield Fire and Security Ltd to take on the responsibility for the refurbishment and maintenance of all six systems - under a 10-year maintenance and development partnership.

The task of monitoring CCTV images is undertaken by Remploy Managed Systems, who now hold three-year service agreements to undertake the monitoring of CCTV images in Dingwall, Fort William, Dingwall, Inverness and Tain. A local voluntary CCTV team undertake monitoring in Thurso in collaboration with Northern Constabulary.

The monitoring of Inverness city centre and Dingwall town centre takes place at a suite within Northern Constabulary's Inverness Area Command office on Burnett, Road, Inverness. On view are 24 monitors depicting scenes from key city centre locations in Inverness as well as five monitors from locations in Dingwall town centre.

Drew McFarlane Slack, Chairman of the Highland Strategic CCTV Network, said the installation of the CCTV network was a crucial tool in providing community safety. "Our research shows that people feel safer with a CCTV system in their community and we are pleased to have played a co-ordinating role in significantly upgrading the service provided.

"One major advantage of the new system is that staff no longer need to spend many hours reviewing video tapes for evidence. A new digital process allows operators to find and review past incidents by simply punching in the earlier time and dates requested by the police. Staff can now concentrate more attention on proactive monitoring and are helping Northern Constabulary manage community safety issues more efficiently."

Councillor Janet Home, Convener of Northern Joint Police Board, said: "This upgrade means we can continue to provide a first class service to the people of the major communities in Highland. The continued safety and wellbeing of our communities is paramount and this development just underlines how valuable partnership working is. The new system has already proven its worth, capturing images of events that have lead to successful police action and hopefully crime reduction."

Provost William Smith, Chairman of The Highland Council's City of Inverness and Area Committee, today formally opened the refurbished network at Northern Constabulary's Inverness Area Command Office on Burnett Road, Inverness.