PC-based plod keeps eye on crime

Wireless security cameras could beam live images of criminals in action direct to the nearest bobby on the beat.

The system has been on test in Hexham, Northumbria, and under the government’s plan to increase the number of security cameras in the UK to two million, the county could be the first to install the wireless units nationwide.

The wireless cameras use mobile phone technology to send pictures to portable monitoring devices such as laptops and hand-held PCs. The new equipment, called open-circuit television, has been developed by Shawley, an electronics company in Newport, South Wales.

The OCTV uses specially adapted pan, tilt and zoom cameras that cost £3,000 each. Each unit includes a computer hard drive and mobile phone to allow encrypted data to be transmitted to remote devices. The camera will only send data to a registered device with an authorised telephone number.

As well as viewing footage, officers can remotely adjust a camera’s position using either a desktop PC, a laptop or palmtop device.

A Home Office spokesman said: ‘It means that we can get cameras into more difficult and isolated areas without having to spend a lot of money digging up the neighbourhood.’ Without the need of cabling to connect the cameras to police control centres, the manufacturers claim the cost of installation drops by 80%.

Nottinghamshire and West Midlands police have shown an interest in the wireless cameras.

PC Harry Wilkinson, a crime prevention officer with Northumbria police which has been testing the system, said: ‘Our plan is not to tackle crime as such but to reduce the fear of crime — and to that end this system was ideal.’

John Wadham, the director of human rights group Liberty said: ‘We are very concerned about the fact that the protection of privacy and regulation of CCTV is lagging behind new developments in technology like this.’