Kent’s chief constable Alan Pughsley and police and crime commissioner Ann Barnes did just that – visiting Medway’s CCTV hub in Strood to view the inner workings of the remote observation complex.
The CCTV centre in Strood
Criminals chose to stay out of shot as the chief constable scanned the banks of screens relaying images from 750 cameras round Medway, Gravesham, Maidstone and Swale.
But that’s not always the case.
Launched in 1998 by Medway Council, the hub began operating cameras for councils across the county in April 2012, and statistics show that between that date and November last year its operators helped in 5,095 arrests.
"It’s a clear message that if you come to Kent and commit crime you will be on camera" - Chief Constable Alan Pughsley
The chief constable said it wasn’t possible to quantify the impact of moving CCTV coverage from other areas to the hub.
“I can’t say whether or not the centralisation of CCTV has increased or improved our arrest figures,” he said, “but what I can say is CCTV gives open, honest and transparent evidence of people committing crime.
“Where that works out in court is two-fold. One; people plead guilty before going to court, so it saves time and expenses, and two; if they do go to trial sometimes this evidence is incontrovertible.”
He called the hub a “magnificent example of partnership-working” adding: “In practical examples, my officers are told of a problem. They are directed to it through the cameras to deal with the issue as soon as possible.
“Issues of identification go out of the window straight away because officers are told you are now dealing with the people causing the problem.”
One benefit of centralising was the ability to track crooks between regions, he added. “Criminals know no boundaries. It’s a clear message that if you come to Kent and commit crime you will be on camera.”
Police commissioner Ann Barnes and new chief constable Alan Pughsley visit the CCTV centre
Head of CCTV partnership Vikram Sahdev said: “Every single camera is monitored.
We’ve retained the localised knowledge, we’ve increased the effectiveness of the systems and there’s been economical benefits. It’s been a huge success.”
He said 90% of cameras were PTZ – pan, tilt and zoom – but admitted they couldn’t scan every inch of the districts.
Also at the hub yesterday was Medway Council deputy leader Cllr Alan Jarrett and Cllr Peter Hicks, head of community safety.
Cllr Hicks said: “Ann Barnes was keen to come and see the centre. We want to show that this is an example of best practice.
“We want to show how important the work we do here is, not just to our own residents, but also to our partner boroughs.”