CCTV in Cambridge

Cambridge City Council started operating a CCTV system in 1997 with 31 cameras. It has since grown to 143 cameras around the city. The system is run by a manager, deputy manager, and eight operators, based in a control room in the basement of the Guildhall. The operators work in four teams of two, and the control room is staffed 24 hours a day, all year round. Since April 2010 the CCTV control room also handles telephone calls to the council’s out-of-hours service, with one staff member employed as call handler.

The council publish quite a lot of information about the CCTV system on their website; in particular this document includes a detailed list of camera locations. Here’s a summary of where the cameras are:

As you can see, a lot of them are in car parks, with more cameras in the Grand Arcade car park alone than on all the city centre streets. Some of the wireless cameras are in fixed positions, but others can be deployed across the city to different locations.

Up to last year, the Cambridge control room also monitored cameras in Ely (28 cameras) and Soham (7 cameras), on behalf of East Cambs District Council. However, these cameras are now run from a control room in Ely police station.

The council publish annual statistics for the CCTV system, measuring its performance in various ways (the reporting year starts in April). Here are graphs for some of them.

The CCTV control room works closely with the police; last year they referred 1,734 events to the police (4.75 per day), and responded to 2,206 calls from them (6 per day). However after rising gradually during the life of the system, these figures were noticeably down last year, presumably due in part to the control room no longer covering Ely and Soham.

What is the outcome of all this contact with the police? Here are the figures for arrests, cautions, and fixed penalty notices:

Interestingly arrests were at around the same level as cautions up to about 2003, but then gradually increased to about twice that level. Perhaps this reflects a change in policy by the police. As with the figures for calls, the 2010-11 figures for arrests and cautions are noticeably down on the previous year. Fixed penalty notices started appearing in 2006, but seem to have faded away a bit recently.

One figure that has been increasing fairly consistently is the number of evidence media produced, nearly two per day:

Finally, here is a graph for missing persons searched for (increasing until recently); alarms responded to (on a gentle decline); and text messages received. In 2006 the Council introduced a text message number, 62288 (spelling MCCTV on the keypad) to encourage members of the public to report incidents needing attention. However they receive less than two messages per day by this route.

The CCTV control room also answers calls to the City Council’s out-of-hours service. These mainly deal with noise complaints and emergency council house repairs. In 2010-11 there were 13,445 calls to this service, an average of more than 36 calls a day.

Remember that these figures only cover CCTV cameras operated by the City Council’s system; there are many other CCTV cameras in Cambridge operated by a wide variety of other organisations.

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