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Westminster pilots wireless network to deliver CCTV images to police on the beat

Bill Goodwin

Westminster Council is piloting a wireless network of portable CCTV cameras and strategically positioned noise monitoring equipment in central London. It promises to give police and council workers armed with laptop computers and personal digital assistants the ability to view pictures on the move.

The pilot, dubbed the Wireless City, is part of an ambitious programme by the council to target crime, drug dealing and anti-social behaviour by giving the police and council officials the ability to set up monitoring equipment at short notice.

"The pilot scheme is already delivering benefits to the council and the police in our fight against drug crime in central London," said Westminster Council leader Simon Milton.

The council began the project, which it claimed was the first of its kind in Europe, at the start of 2004 using a wireless network of 11 Cisco bridges, four wireless CCTV cameras mounted on lampposts and a noise monitoring device in Soho Square.

"What differentiates our wireless network from other networks is that we can link devices together to cover a large area. Other people use a single device in a station or a retail outlet, but we are running applications over the top of the network," said Andrew Snellgrove, the council's network manager.

Tests of a van equipped with a wireless CCTV camera are due to begin in the next few days.

"The van will be used to monitor special events, pop concerts and emergencies. By delivering real-time pictures, it will have a much higher impact. We will be in a position to react in a much more efficient manner," said Snellgrove.

The council plans to use the wireless CCTV cameras, supplied by Telindus Surveillance Solutions, to supplement its existing network of CCTV cameras, which use analogue fibre optic links.

Mobile cameras, which have a powerful zoom and the ability to operate in the dark, could be positioned within 24 hours, compared to six months for a conventional CCTV camera, and at quarter of the cost, said Snellgrove.

They will allow police and council workers to view real-time footage of incidents on the move and from handheld devices, without having to travel to the council's central CCTV control room, as they do at present.

The council plans to pilot the technology with its team of city guardians, who work with the police to combat anti-social behaviour, over the next few weeks.

The Metropolitan Police has shown a strong interest in the technology, which could allow mobile police units to view real-time pictures of an incident, rather than having to rely on descriptions delivered via radio.

The technology

  • 11 Cisco Bridges mounted on lampposts
  • Four Panasonic CCTV cameras mounted on lampposts
  • Central Hewlett-Packard video server running DVTel software
  • Noise detector supplied by Casella
  • Cisco WLSE network management software running on a central HP server.

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