Getting Police to Use CCTV

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Want to get police to do something with the CCTV evidence you send them? Det Insp Mick Neville, the Metropolitan Police man in charge of using video evidence, gave some tips at the recent meeting of Ex-Police in Commerce (EPIC). Martk Rowe, editor of Professional Security magazine, reports.

From the floor, Mick Gains of Guide Security put that question to Neville, who heads VIIDO (Visual Images, Identifications and Detections Office). His talk to a Nottinghamshire CCTV user group last year featured in November's Professional Security. Neville replied that the police are 'overwhelmed' with intelligence. So, what you send them has to be easy and obvious to use; already downloaded, for instance. Neville has spoken widely to private security audiences in the last year - to the Association of Security Consultants, for instance - putting across his message that police are using CCTV poorly or not at all - subtly different from the headlines in the mainstream media, which miss the point by claiming that all CCTV is useless. On the contrary, Neville spoke of - and showed examples of - CCTV evidence of 'wedding photo' quality. Police wrongly thought of CCTV as council CCTV, whereas his VIIDO unit had only 7 per cent of its footage from local authorities. Far more came from commercial CCTV users; the likes of bus operators, shops and bookmakers. "But there has got to be a desire to find these images," Neville said, criticising the police for finding excuses for not looking for, or using, CCTV footage. Speaking of manufacturers, he said: It's no good flogging things if the police can't download it, obtain it from hard drives in an easy fashion. The easier it is, the more result you can possibly get." He criticised the police for demanding footage, that officers did not then collect; VIIDO by working with Transport for London had raised the rate of solved robberies on London buses from 5pc to 40pc. Standard of in-bus CTV images, he stressed, was excellent.


Work is going on towards matching suspects to crimes, by database matches, including facial recognition, Neville said; or recognition of people by their tattoo, logo on clothing, or colour of clothing. Neville suggested the prospect even of real-time matching. Neville's appeal was for more spending on training and -a particular weakness in the police, he said - better detectives' supervision of CCTV use by officers. "CCTV has to be a forensic discipline. We have a massive investment, so we have got to use it … unless CCTV detects crime, it won't prevent crime," Neville said, arguing that CCTV used as evidence can cost far less than fingerprints or DNA. As for the theory that criminals become wise to cameras and put up their hoods or change clothes to make identification difficult: Mick Neville pointed out that young thieves, fashion-conscious enough to spend perhaps £300 on a jacket, do not want to stop wearing an item, which can link them to a series of crimes caught on CCTV. A petty criminal stealing to afford drugs does not think of trying to throw off police; he thinks only for the day. Besides, CCTV need not form the whole case against a thief; it can assist; Neville praised for instance footage of a credit card thief at a till as 'top drawer intelligence'. VIIDO is not all about CCTV; images on websites such as bebo and YouTube can identify graffiti artists, for example.

Train exception

Speaking to Professional Security afterwards, he admitted that British Transport Police use of CCTV as featured in the January issue was the exception rather than the norm. To recap, colour CCTV in train carriages meant police could identify hooligans fighting on a London train before a Charlton-Crystal Palace football game; and joined-up thinking led to a match of CCTV at a supermarket till with a receipt found at a crime scene. That said, he stressed improvements in the police - 'the culture is changing' - such as a massive rise in Met idents (identifications) of suspects thanks to CCTV, singling out the south London borough of Southwark. On the force intranet, a 'Caught on Camera' section has thousands of hits a week and can lead to an officer from one part of London emailing an ident about a crime in another part to catch an offender in a third part. While the Met is the only force that can say even how many CCTV images it has, Nottinghamshire and other shire forces are looking to do something similar to Neville's unit; and the Association of Chief Police Officers’ CCTV lead, Cheshire Police Assistant Chief Constable Graeme Gerrard, is seeking to set up a similar unit to VIIDO for the north west region. Thanking Mick Neville for coming from London to the EPIC quarterly meeting at Kegworth, EPIC chairman Nigel Spencer-Knott presented Neville with an EPIC tie.

This article first appeared in Professional Security Magazine. Contact us if you are interested in finding out more about Professional Security Magazine or subscribing to it.