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Image conscious Display screens in Bolton’s municipal CCTV control room. Managed by a contractor, it has spare capacity to take on additional surveillance tasks

Remote video cameras are the eyes of a surveillance system, but two-way radio supplies the ears and voice. Richard Lambley visits an up-to-the-minute CCTV control suite in the Greater Manchester area to fi nd what connects them


n town centres, shopping centres and in- dustrial sites everywhere, closed-circuit TV cameras are the eyes of security offi cers.

But to perform an effi cient job, image-gather- ing in the CCTV control room must be closely linked to communications so that observations can be swiftly acted upon. One of the UK’s most innovative CCTV

control centres is operated for the local au- thority at Bolton, a part of Greater Manches- ter, where it covers two local town centres. Its advanced software switching system provides instant access to several PMR systems at each operator position, through a convenient touch- screen control panel. With this equipment, the centre can claim to be the fi rst municipal con- trol room to include full integration with police Airwave channels. Motive force behind the control room’s de-

sign is Paul Bolton, the town’s security services manager. “We used to operate and run CCTV for the town centre – that’s Bolton town cen- tre and Farnworth town centre”, he explains. “But about two years ago we went out to tender and NCP now eff ectively run the town centre CCTV on behalf of the council. So my role has changed from being direct manager to being a sort of contracts manager for the CCTV.”


Camera control With a background in electrical and mechani- cal engineering and building services, Paul has been involved in security for some 15 years. Working for another local authority, he was re- sponsible for designing a system of 600 cameras over eight town centres, together with a new control room, a project which was then ten- dered out directly by the council. When the op- portunity to develop a new control room later came up in Bolton, he was able to apply this experience there too. “In Bolton you’ve got approximately 225

cameras within Bolton town centre and Farn- worth town centre”, he says. “We’ve got control of all those cameras and availability for all those cameras. It also monitors the car parks and takes calls from car parking machines when there’s been issues. We get all those calls into the control room.”

In the ether of IP T e room itself, discreetly located in a council development a few minutes’ walk from Bolton’s magnifi cent Victorian town hall, is spacious, quiet and softly lit in blue and white, with clusters of desks facing a broad array of 80-inch video projection screens. On these are displayed

crisp, high-quality images of locations around the town – and even within the building itself, because the control room has its own CCTV protection. T e scenes chop and change as the operators scan them for points of interest. “T e diff erence here with most of what you’ll

see is that this is Internet Protocol-based – it is what they call a virtual matrix”, Paul explains. “It sits there in the ether of IP and doesn’t phys- ically exist – it’s just a server. So all the cameras here are all IP. “T e way that it works is you’ve got the cam-

eras out of the fi eld, you have a major comms connection point in the Town Hall in the base- ment, a proper comms room. T e days have gone away from CCTV plant rooms: basically they are IT comms rooms. “All the images are encoded at the Town Hall

or out in the fi eld at the camera, depending on the age of the technology and the camera – and then back from that IT comms room we have two diversely-routed fi bre cables.”

Work space Paul points out that the control room desks are arranged in two groups. “You’ve got the town centre in one half, and you’ve got what we would class as the Industrial Estates Part-

LAND mobile October 2011

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