Boost to area’s cutting-edge CCTV centre

Inside the Harrogate area's CCTV control room. (S)
Inside the Harrogate area's CCTV control room. (S)

Cutting edge CCTV systems in the Harrogate area have been boosted further with a £100,000 investment.

The district, from Harrogate to Ripon, Boroughbridge and Knaresborough, is covered by 186 CCTV cameras all operated from a central control room.

Now, this control room, already recognised as one of the best, has been boosted further with the installation of seven state-of-the-art flat-screen TVs.

“The images that operators see and record are first-class,” said Coun Margaret Atkinson, cabinet member for public protection and rural affairs at Harrogate Borough Council, which made the investment.

“It reassures me that we are able to provide first-class images for court cases and the evidence we provide plays a significant part in prosecutions.”

Harrogate’s control room works closely with North Yorkshire Police.

It has dealt with 2,250 incidents since April, handing over more than 400 surveillance discs to aid investigations.

One case which was highlighted in the media was a suspected arson attack at Harrogate’s Debenhams store last month. In this instance, a CCTV operator on routine patrol spotted a small fire in a wheelie bin at the side of the loading bay.

His prompt action, in alerting the fire brigade, prevented the blaze from taking hold and turning into a major fire.

Mal Austwick, from North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, commended the prompt actions of the CCTV staff.

“Without the quick actions of the staff in the CCTV control room we could have been dealing with a far worse situation,” he said. “It is hoped that a prosecution will follow, the CCTV evidence will be valuable in any court case.”

The control room works closely with pubs, clubs, and retailers through a radio system. This way, it can help provide a prompt response to shoplifting, drunk and rowdy behaviour, or to track lost and vulnerable members of the community.

It is also linked up to North Yorkshire Police, sharing information with officers on known offenders, offending patterns and travelling criminals.

Supt Aubrey Smith, Harrogate District Commander for North Yorkshire Police, said: “The cameras are an excellent resource and we are very fortunate that we have a close working relationship with the council, my officers can rely on an immediate response from the CCTV operators which greatly assists our investigations.”

Julia Stack, community safety and CCTV manager said the replacement of the outdated equipment would bring a big boost to the control.

Staff are highly trained, she said, and with the best equipment are able to identify individuals acting suspiciously.

“If you are going about your normal business it is unlikely that you will come to our attention, however if your body language is out of character we may well take a closer look,” she said.

“We know who the repeat offenders are and my staff are quick to inform radio users, providing a robust surveillance service.”