Silent Sentinel - Garda look to technology advances in latest 14-town CCTV projects

Garda look to technology advances in latest 14-town CCTV projects

The first experiments with town centre surveillance started with Temple Bar, Dublin, in 1995, followed by installations in O’Connell Street, Dublin, Tralee, Cork, Bray, Dunlaoire, Dundalk, Limerick and Galway.

The first experiments with town centre surveillance started with Temple Bar, Dublin, in 1995, followed by installations in O’Connell Street, Dublin, Tralee, Cork, Bray, Dunlaoire, Dundalk, Limerick and Galway. Then, from 2007, a new model was adopted, taking advantage of advances in digital recording, wireless transmission and robust camera designs.

Pushing back the technical boundaries, a new phase of installations this year, at Ballyfermot and Clondalkin in Dublin and Tullamore proved successful and so paved the way for the 14 new projects in 2008.

So, in a few short years, Ireland has been reaping the benefits of learning from what others have done before, rolling out highly capable CCTV systems in a well-planned, and hence cost-effective way.

Whereas other town centre CCTV planners have learned by trial and error and have over the years experienced the pain of grainy pictures, unexpected maintenance problems, premature technology redundancy, and rising upgrade costs, these latest Irish systems, are not only state-of-the-art but can be expected to have a pretty long life expectancy too.

Planners here also gained experience and say they learnt some valuable lessons from the earlier 9 schemes, lessons about the installation, maintenance and operation of these types of system.

“Issues which have occurred include maintenance of underground services during urban regeneration schemes, integration of schemes from differing vendors at regional level, quality of recorded images, and presentation of digital images as evidence in court,” says one source close to the projects.

The 9 systems installed prior to 2005 were based on time-lapse tape recording technology and a mix of underground fibre-optic and line-of-sight microwave transmission. By contrast the 17 (3 during 2007 and 14 during 2008) new systems have fully embraced digital recording with 25ips (images per second) recording of all cameras for 31 days and the implementation of a high level of audit traceability.

“The use of COFDM wireless technology is making possible the rapid installation of cameras, especially in towns where underground services are poor and a high risk of construction projects would generally interfere with standard line-of-sight microwave transmission,” a Garda spokesperson told us.

The 2008 wave of installations will extend CCTV coverage to 14 local communities. The towns to be covered are: Drogheda, Tallagh, Mullingar, Waterford, Portlaoise, Kilkenny, Sligo, Castlebar, Ennis, Dungarvan, Kinsale, Athlone, Carlow and Clonmel.

The systems are being installed in separate projects handled by a number of leading integrators. Mongey Communications, Colemans Electronics, SKS Communications and G4S now joining the original two contractors, Secure Vision Systems and BT Ireland. As in the previous Garda schemes, the 2007/2008 projects monitoring centres have been created in each of the 17 Garda stations and co-situated with the communications and IT functions of the stations.

The systems are capable of being networked to other centres as required. These schemes are to be operated by Gardai, with the district stations each encompassing a full complement of Garda services including the District Superintendent, District Office, Public Office, Community Policing, and other Garda services (the tier of stations in each of the six Garda regions are Divisional, District and Sub-district stations).

At each monitoring location video-walls displaying all of the feeds and spot monitors allow live incidents to be dealt with more effectively.

The monitoring teams for all of the new schemes will be in direct communication with front line colleagues via radio and telephone links, a tactic that has proved so successful elsewhere, with CCTV operators often being the first witnesses to ‘reach’ an incident, and able to give their attending colleagues crucial advanced intelligence.

The Garda CCTV programme has been progressed in tandem with the community-based CCTV scheme which is led by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and administered by Pobal on behalf of the Government and EU.