Cracking down with the mobile CCTV fleet
An environmental enforcement team in Surrey has equipped three of its patrol vehicles with digital CCTV recording to combat the menace of fly-tipping and anti-social behaviour - with impressive results
Three vehicles operated by the council in Surrey - two connect vans and one larger transit van - have been equipped with the PatrolVu system from Traffic Safety Systems (TSS). The first connect van features high visibility livery and is a 'Safer Guildford Partnership' vehicle operated on behalf of Surrey Police and the council. Usually crewed by council staff, its primary role is environmental enforcement.
In terms of CCTV, TSS has fitted out this vehicle its PatrolVu digital CCTV recording. This comprises a roof-mounted 360˚ pan, tilt and zoom camera, a forward facing camera, and a camera which can look down the right hand side of the vehicle - ideal for capturing images of someone who may be disposing of litter inappropriately.
The second connect van is used by the council's neighbourhood and housing management service unit to deal with issues regarding estate and tenancy management and to gather supporting evidence. In addition, to more overt CCTV technology, this vehicle incorporates a covert rearward facing pinhole camera.
Guildford's final vehicle, featuring TSS mobile CCTV, is a dog warden's transit van, which is focused primarily on dealing with stray, dangerous dogs and dog fouling. This older van has now been completely updated with the PatrolVu digital CCTV solution, forward facing cameras, hand controller and dashboard monitor.
Enviro crime is constant battle
"In the environmental enforcement department we are focused on what I would term 'enviro crime' and it is a constant battle using education, deterrent measures - such as CCTV - and enforcement action to keep our streets, roads, parks and countryside free of illegally dumped waste and litter," explains Gary Kirk, the council's environmental enforcement officer, who oversees the operation of two of the three vehicles.
"At Guildford we have been using TSS technology in various guises for the past four to five years, with initial interest stemming from a visit to Southampton who were already using mobile CCTV from an environmental perspective," he adds. "We were able to appreciate the operational benefits first-hand and this led to our first partnership vehicle with an agreement that the pilot CCTV system - a predecessor of the PatrolVu - was paid for by the Safer Guildford Partnership."
When it comes to environmental enforcement, one area where Guildford's high visibility partnership vehicle has proved to be successful is in dealing with commercial vehicles carelessly discharging their loads.
"In Guildford we have the extremely busy A3 trunk road running through the town. Unfortunately as a consequence we see a number of bulk carriers whose canvas sheeting has not been tied down correctly. This leads to some of the load ending-up on the carriageway - with all of the negative ramifications this brings for road safety and the environment," explains Kirk.
"To address this we frequently park-up the partnership vehicle in an adjacent lay-by and sit and watch for offenders to drive through the area. The 30-second pre-alarm facility on the PatrolVu is certainly invaluable, meaning that we only have to store evidence of real incidents on the hard drive as, when we spot something, we know that the lead-up will automatically be available for review."
Capturing the culprits
Kirk says that in terms of identifying culprits, the council typically seeks to capture the vehicle's licence plate and use the pan, tilt and zoom camera on the van's roof for driver recognition. With the information gathered it can then readily trace the haulage company concerned and present them with the evidence of their driver's transgressions. To put this problem into perspective, the last vehicle litter clean-up on the A3 trunk road cost Guildford £30,000 for a couple of evenings of work and there was also the inconvenience of the associated lane closures.
"It makes sense for us to tackle this issue head-on and so, ultimately, change behaviour," maintains Kirk. "On a positive note we have had encouraging feedback from meetings with hauliers in the Guildford area. One local haulier, who was previously a frequent offender, upon seeing our evidence has now changed its practices for the better. The result is less waste to be cleared up, a reduced impact on the environment, and the haulier in question is not losing valuable cargo in transit."
A visible presence
The high visibility vehicle can be deployed at the request of Surrey Police to provide support at hotspots when specific events are under way in Guilford, to focus on areas not covered by the town centre CCTV. In addition, the vehicle is available for police operations such as Safer Neighbourhood Patrols where it can be brought into an area and parked-up to deal with anti-social behaviour and underage drinking.
When the partnership vehicle is operating in a policing role, in addition to the council's team of operators, a police officer will be positioned in the vehicle's passenger seat where there is dual control capability for the CCTV. "Although our main tasking is environmental enforcement, we can provide a powerful resource for the police should the need arise," says Kirk.
He cites a recent example where the council was deployed to a nearby village where anti-social behaviour was becoming an issue behind a row of shops. The presence of the high visibility CCTV van helped to defuse the situation and reassure the community, with an immediate drop in anti-social behaviour. He explains: "We were able to use the CCTV technology to engage with many of the teenagers in the village, who were encouraged to sit in the vehicle and look at the CCTV cameras in action, and certainly we felt that this helped to break down some of the barriers."
Education continues to be seen by Guildford Borough Council as a key element of the work of the environmental enforcement department. Kirk and the rest of his team frequently park-up their partnership vehicle on Guildford's High Street, and at local schools, to explain to people what they are doing in terms of clamping down on environmental issues such as littering. The very presence of the vehicle acts as a talking point in the area and tends to make potential offenders think again.