West Midlands Police has moved to a high-speed broadband wide area network to handle its ever-increasing voice and data traffic. In the past 10 years the number of 999 calls has doubled and the force now receives more than 2,000 emergency calls a day.
West Midlands is the second largest police force in the country, covering an area of 348 square miles and serving a population of almost 2.63 million. On a typical day its officers deal with more than 3,200 incidents.
With increasing demands the force needed to replace its original leased circuits and separate voice and data networks, which had limited bandwidth.
Max Corney, communications manager at West Midlands Police, said, "We used a number of circuits and were finding that some were up to capacity while others were not being fully utilised. The aim, therefore, was to improve connectivity, make the system easier to manage and more cost-effective to run."
The first step was to link the main police sites in Birmingham, Solihull, West Bromwich, Walsall, Wolverhampton and Dudley. Supplier Telewest Business installed a cohesive data and voice infrastructure. The high-speed broadband Wan enables key stations to communicate at greater speeds and share critical information in a secure environment.
The infrastructure can also handle video streaming from helicopter-mounted cameras and high street CCTV systems. The network enables the implementation of a sector policing strategy where officers need fast access from any station to a central database.
"The Wan gives us a substantial increase in bandwidth at the same operating costs as before," said Corney. "Aside from increased value, consolidation of billing and speed, the system also allows us to back-up across the network, creating a virtual computer network. Logistics become less of a headache when you are managing just the one network."
Telewest Business has since been awarded a contract to provide a 100mbps Lan extension service, connecting the four main police stations in Coventry to the existing network. Another phase of the project, connecting 100 peripheral stations across the West Midlands to the core network, is at the testing stage.
West Midlands Police has introduced a new phone number for non-emergency calls. The 0845 number was launched last year to reduce the list of different numbers the public used to reach local police stations. The number, hosted on Telewest's Intelligent Network, connects to a call centre where trained personnel can place calls quickly and efficiently.
"The non-emergency number allows for better use of police time and is fully manned so members of the public can reach us around the clock," said Corney.
This was first published in May 2003