CCTV operators message: Big Brother is always watching you
Big Brother is watching 24/7, 365 days a year.
That's the message from the team of operators manning 15 CCTV cameras strategically placed around Stamford.
Based in a control room in Grantham, the unit has in the last few months notched up some notable successes including:
- Spotting a suspicious vehicle in Stamford leading to the arrest of the occupants who were charged with theft of more than £10,000 worth of mobile phones;
- Spotting a vehicle linked to a previous shoplifting incident in the town, again resulting in the arrest of two occupants;
- Notifying police of two shoplifters who were subsequently apprehended; and
- Spotting two out of town shoplifters who were arrested while trying to leave on a train after stealing from local shops.
The unit has in the past also helped track stolen vehicles, find missing children, spotted people carrying dangerous weapons, identified drug dealers and recorded assaults.
"The value that this service provides is something you cannot put a price on," said SKDC Coun Dr Peter Moseley, cabinet member for environment.
"We believe (the costs associated with running the unit) are a small price to pay for an excellent service that keeps residents safe."
Started in 1997 with 26 cameras, the unit has grown to the point where it now has 60 plus cameras in operation across Stamford, Grantham, The Deepings and Bourne.
"We employ 10 people working two per shift and operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year," said the unit's CCTV and out of hours supervisor, Rob Hughes.
"The operators are really good at their jobs and are constantly learning and adapting. You can train the basics of using the equipment, but they develop a gut feel over time that comes with experience."
Two of the unit's members, Kevin Taylor and Neil Flear, each received commendation's from Lincolnshire Police for work resulting in the identification of suspects for a series of thefts from vehicles , leading to arrests and the recovery of property.
"It's well proven that CCTV in urban areas does help with crime reduction," said Coun Moseley.
"It's difficult to put a figure on how much it helps, but it does assist in keeping crime low."
Rob said that on average, around 700 "bundles" of evidence were released to police every year.
"The footage absolutely helps in court," he said.
"You can have a criminal saying in court that they weren't at the scene but you can't argue against the CCTV evidence."
Inspector Ian Martin of Stamford Police had high praise for the unit.
"The operators are really well honed at spotting suspicious activity," he said.
"It is a very valuable resource that helps police as we can be directed to specific incidents."
Rob said the idea behind the cameras was not to hide them in order to spy on the public.
"These are overt cameras that stand out," he said.
"We want the public to know they are there and signs have been placed around each of the areas saying they are there."
While there are sometimes comical moments when members of the public "moon or lift their tops at the cameras", there are times when operators have to watch disturbing footage too.
"We see some pretty tragic things," said Rob.
"It's not easy watching someone being given a beating and your job is to get the best possible footage you can to secure a conviction.
"The operators have access to 24/7 support if needed though."
Ian Yates, SKDC's assistant director commercial and operations, said it was important to educate the public about the facility and what it offered.
Groups are welcome to get in touch with the council to arrange tours of the facility and in the past both scouts and guide groups as well as community interest organisations have passed through the unit's doors.
For now though, with Christmas approaching, the team is preparing for one of its busiest times of the year.
"The build up to Christmas is a busy time for us," said Rob.
"It's not only shops that are susceptible to theft but there are pick pockets out too and more people going out to drinks with friends or going to Christmas parties."
Just remember though, not matter where you are, Big Brother could be watching.