TfL trials ‘live’ CCTV on London buses

The Metropolitan Police’s Transport Operational Command Unit (TOCU) will be taking advantage of real-time CCTV on London’s buses to help crack down on anti-social behaviour.

Nov 20, 2008
By Paul Jacques
L-R: PC Joe Swan, Sgt Thomas Neilson and Sgt Chris Smith

Twenty-one double-decker buses in North London will be trialling the technology that allows live pictures to be beamed to a central control centre shared by officers from Transport for London (TfL) and the Met.

When bus drivers on the trial route make a radio call to the control room, operators will be able to use the new technology to access real-time images of the bus in question. Pictures are beamed via secure and encrypted mobile networks directly from the buses to the TfL control room.

Operators, working directly alongside officers from the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), will be able to view any of the cameras on the bus and direct police officers to the scene if required. The six-month trial will monitor and analyse the use of the technology to decide whether it can help deal with incidents on buses more effectively.

The LIVEview system installed on each bus comprises a ProGuard digital video recorder (DVR) developed by 21st Century CCTV, connected to a Moovbox M200 Mobile Broadband Gateway from cellular broadband gateways specialists Icomera.

Cameras fitted inside and outside the bus record images continuously to disk but the new Moovbox technology means the driver can activate a high-speed link whereby operators can view live or recorded footage in real time.

The TfL deployment is the first stage of a major initiative by 21st Century CCTV – which has supplied and installed over 20 per cent of all on-bus CCTV systems in London – and Icomera to offer live mobile video streaming technology to municipalities and transport operators for public safety applications.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: “I want our public transport to become world renowned for its safety. And I am determined to banish the sad minority of hoodlums and troublemakers that have blighted our buses.

“Having the facility to access live pictures from buses travelling around the capital will mean we can play a far more effective role in sending police officers to sort out troublemakers. If this trial is successful then we will consider rolling out the system on other routes as part of our campaign to stamp out the casual disorder that led to a culture of fear on public transport.”

Andy Thompson, performance manager at London Buses, added: “We know this technology works and now we are going to test its application on the London bus network. While crime is low on London buses, we know there is more to do, which is why we are always looking at ways to improve safety, and our passengers’ perception of safety, while they travel on our network.”

Every London bus currently has a CCTV system installed that records images, which can be downloaded on request. This has proved an invaluable policing tool and has led to a tripling of the arrest rate for criminal damage on buses in the capital.

There are 60,000 CCTV cameras operating on the 8,000 London buses. There are more than 650 requests every month for images to be downloaded by the police.

These images can also help with incidents that do not happen on the bus network but which may capture a victim or suspect travelling to or from the scene of an alleged crime.

The MPS TOCU has also set up a CCTV unit which investigates attacks on bus drivers, as well as more serious incidents, and this will continue to make the best use of the CCTV on the bus network, which is of a high quality, meeting the evidential standard needed by the courts.

TfL will carry out an evaluation of the latest trial with Professor Martin Gill (a leading national expert in CCTV), and will report back to the Mayor with their recommendations in June next year.

The Mayor has also announced an extra 440 uniformed officers for the bus network, which are being rolled out across London from January next year. This will bring the number of officers on the bus network to more than 2,000, the highest level for over 25 years.

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