‘Jacket cams’ deployed to combat anti-social motorists

Traffic wardens in Hammersmith and Fulham are to become the first in London to wear ‘jacket cams’ to help catch anti-social motorists who abuse them.

Aug 22, 2012
By Paul Jacques
L-R: PC Joe Swan, Sgt Thomas Neilson and Sgt Chris Smith

Traffic wardens in Hammersmith and Fulham are to become the first in London to wear ‘jacket cams’ to help catch anti-social motorists who abuse them.

The civil enforcement officers (CEOs) will wear video cameras that can record footage for up to eight hours at the flick of a switch, when the cameras come into use in the autumn.

The cameras, which sit in a harness attached to the traffic warden’s hi-vis jacket, will not only act as a deterrent to would-be attackers, but also give police vital video evidence to help convict criminals who threaten or assault officers.

The lightweight RS3 body camera from Reveal Media is weather-resistant and waterproof, records in high definition and has an automatic microphone that captures clear audio. It is expected that four to five hours of footage will be taped every week – but officers will press the record button only if they feel threatened or are in situations where they could be harmed.

Video files can then be stored on the council’s recently upgraded digital CCTV system for use in police investigations, if needed, and will be deleted within three months of the case being closed.

The decision to introduce the cameras comes after a sharp rise in the number of assaults on traffic wardens in recent years. In Hammersmith and Fulham, the number of verbal and physical attacks on parking wardens has more than doubled since 2008, with officers reporting three or four dangerous incidents every month. In 2010-11, 69 serious incidents were reported – that’s more than one attack, verbal or physical, a week.

Cllr Victoria Brocklebank-Fowler, Cabinet member for transport and technical services, said: “No one should feel unsafe when they are doing their job and some of the assaults on our officers have been truly horrific and completely unwarranted. We want to make sure our staff are safe especially they do a valuable job in keeping our roads clear and keeping the borough moving.

“This council takes a zero-tolerance approach to the small minority of motorists who abuse our staff with violent, vile or threatening behaviour.”

The council is also looking into introducing other measures to improve the safety of staff. These include an enhanced GPS tracking system that allows staff at the town hall to get help to a warden quickly at their exact location, trials of stab-proof vests and equipping staff with DNA ‘spit kits’.

Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) officers in Sutton town centre are trialling body worn video cameras this summer to help clamp down on crime and anti-social behaviour. Inspector Richard Hall expects the cameras to act as an effective deterrent as most troublemakers are likely to wander off and disperse if they know they are being filmed by police.

He told the annual meeting of Sutton’s Neighbourhood Watch that public order offences invariably take place when people have had too much to drink and leave town centre bars and clubs shouting and swearing.

“Yet when those suspects appear before magistrates the next day, they are ‘suited and sober and butter wouldn’t melt in their mouths’,” he said.

However, the ‘body worn’ video cameras, which are about the size of an officer’s police radio, capture their criminal behaviour, said Insp Hall.

“When the suspects are being questioned sitting next to their solicitor in custody at the police station, we will be able to show the images and say, ‘yes, this was you last night’,” he said. “It would give them very little wriggle room in terms of being able to deny what happened.”

Tackling domestic violence

Body worn cameras are also increasingly being used by forces to aid with prosecution in domestic violence cases.

Sussex Police used the cameras earlier this year during its annual Operation Cranberry, with patrols dedicated to dealing with reports of domestic abuse, particularly during football tournaments such as June’s UEFA Euro 2012 championships, when people are drinking more.

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