Bridgend County Borough Council’s control room has recently benefited from a comprehensive upgrade, at the heart of which is the latest V-TAS Pro Integrated Security Application Platform from icomply.
Already utilising icomply’s V-TAS back office system prior to the control room’s refurbishment and following a demonstration of the powerful icomply technology, an upgrade to the company’s V-TAS Pro command & control management system was seen as a natural development by the Bridgend team.
With the aim of bringing the control room’s facilities and digital recording solution up to date, the project was put out to tender and won by integration specialists CDS. CDS installed Vigilant NVR/DVR recording technology and utilised the control room’s existing MAXPRO MAX 1000 to create a full hybrid solution. Employing this approach enabled Bridgend County Borough Council to make use of existing analogue technology alongside the ability to progress towards the use of emerging IP and megapixel technology in the future. All existing 144 analogue camera feeds are now digitised on entry to the control room, enabling icomply integration and full management by the V-TAS Pro system.
“We have worked with Bridgend County Borough Council for over 15 years, providing the control room with a number of evolutions over that period,” explains Andy Williams, Operations Director of CDS; “This latest revision presented the challenge of providing seamless control, reporting and recording of a large analogue camera network through one intuitive digital interface. We were confident from our previous experience of icomply technology that the latest version of VTAS Pro could fulfill this role.”
Control room upgrade
“We originally purchased the icomply V-TAS back office and reporting system in 2004 and instantly experienced its benefits across the whole of our administration operations,” says Jayne Thomas, Customer and Community Support Manager for Bridgend County Borough Council. “At the time we were reliant on a paper-based service and logbooks that proved very labour intensive to manage. The introduction of the VTAS back office system saw our control room administration function become streamlined and far more effective in achieving a paperless Control Room.
“When the time came to upgrade our command and control system, icomply’s VTAS Pro was a natural choice. We wanted to build on the investments we had already made with the VTAS back office, whilst adding functionality, a comprehensive audit trail and easy to use, high-performance control.
“Once the system’s capabilities had been demonstrated to us, we were in no doubt that V-TAS Pro was the building block on which to base the functionality of our upgraded control room.”
With Bridgend control room’s camera images being supplied from varied and diverse areas, operators deal with a wide range of incidents. Covering the town centres of Bridgend, Maesteg, Caerau, Pencoed, Porthcawl, several housing estates and council car parks, the CCTV surveillance requirement changes throughout the daily schedule. Using V-TAS Pro’s powerful reporting and control facility, vital statistics can be acquired for each camera or network of cameras at the touch of a button. This advanced functionality permits the council to refine their operating and surveillance practices, essentially, to ensure the appropriate level of resources can be deployed to the correct area, at the right time.
“This year, we have seen almost 700 incidents across our surveillance network,” explains Jayne. “They range from murders, serious incidents, public orders, assaults and shoplifting, to lost children on a busy summer’s day in the coastal town of Porthcowl. The combination of powerful command and control combined with high-resolution CCTV cameras gives us a great advantage in these situations. We can search a huge area at the touch of a button, directing Police officers to any incident via our Police airwave radio link in the control room.
“During the course of the day, as we transcend from day to nighttime economy, we typically see incidents concentrated in town centres and the nightlife scene. These require a different response from our CCSU (Customer and Community Support Unit) operating team, that often sees them communicating directly with police officers on the ground, attending an incident and identifying persons involved through video footage recorded just moments earlier. This could see lesser surveillance systems fail to deliver, however the V-TAS Pro platform can provide recorded images immediately – identifying the time the incident took place and replaying it instantly. All this means, that individuals involved can be quickly identified and apprehended, equipping police officers at a scene with all the information they require to bring the incident to a successful close.
Direct police contact
“During any large scale operation or event, our CCSU operators can send live images directly to the police control room. This feature means we can inform the controllers, and send them live footage. This has proved a real asset in the effective deployment of police resources at such events, ensuring maximum protection for the public and infrastructure at all times.
“We have dealt with over 100 shoplifting incidents in Bridgend alone over the past 11 months and our icomply V-TAS pro equipped control room gives not only a watertight audit trail for any subsequent prosecution of offenders, but also provides extremely effective control during those incidents,” explains Jayne. “Each type of incident is different, but by employing icomply V-TAS Pro in the control room, our operators can be confident of intuitive camera control and switching – whatever the situation.”
If an incident is captured and requires Police attention or investigation, Police officers can use a dedicated playback suite in the control room to view the footage before it is burnt to transportable media. All activity including operator viewings is recorded on the V-TAS Pro system, to ensure a watertight audit and evidential trail. “With such an effective search facility, Police officers can contact the control room to check if we have any potential footage to look at before they make the trip to us,” explains Jayne. “This means that they only need to come to the control room if we have confirmed that our cameras have captured footage of the incident they are interested in. This saves any unnecessary trips and ensures the Police officer’s time and resources is kept to a minimum, especially in the economic climate.”
Producing powerful incident and repeat offender reporting has proved an integral part of control room management for many years at Bridgend, and the upgrade to V-TAS Pro has proved to build further on this success. In addition to detailed operational control, such as equipment maintenance and operator activity, V-TAS Pro provides an effective prosecution tool, supplying a comprehensive evidential audit trail of all incidents and associated operator actions.
“The information presented is provided in clear, concise, and easy to understand reports with graphical presentations,” adds Jayne. “This has proven invaluable at providing reports to Councilors for various Committees, whilst the graphical nature provides an easier understanding of the areas covered by CCTV.
“With a recently reduced budget for camera maintenance, the V-TAS Pro reports have been extensively used in the preparation of a new tender for a camera replacement programme. The reports allow me to identify cameras on which we place a high dependence during our daily surveillance routines and are used more heavily than others. Using this information, we can look at changing cameras from location to location, making sure we get the most value and operation from each unit before they are replaced. This ensures we maximize our investment in all the equipment and provide the best value service possible.”
Looking to the future, the modular nature of the V-TAS Pro platform means that any further services that CCSU undertake can be simply ‘bolted on’, affording a solid foundation with future-proof upgrade paths. “The next evolution of the control room will include a lone work service,” explains Jayne. “This will be simple to integrate into the icomply V-TAS Pro system and provide a new service for our internal and external customers, with all the reporting and control advantages we currently enjoy in the control room.”