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    Super cops seek fixed link to town centre CCTV
    - The Register

    The Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) is seeking a permanent tap
    into a network of 850 CCTV cameras that look down on greater
    Manchester.

    The link, giving SOCA free access to any camera in the city at the
    flick of a switch, is being made possible by the gradual upgrade of
    Manchester's CCTV network to wireless internet technology.

    The first such devices were installed in July up Wilmslow Road.
    Sources close to Manchester Police and City Council said SOCA was
    looking at how it might exploit the new technology to establish
    closer surveillance of its quarries in the city centre.

    SOCA refused to comment. "Some of the stuff they are doing is a
    little bit sensitive," said one source close to the scheme.

    Another said SOCA was interested because the old surveillance
    networks were limited by their costly fibre optic cable
    infrastructure that fed video images to control centres.

    "It would be very difficult to do on fibre. It would take a lot of
    fibre and would require every camera in the city to have a dedicated
    fibre link running straight to SOCA," said another source with
    knowledge of the scheme.

    That hadn't stopped the Metropolitan Police going ahead with plans
    to start running its own fibre optic links from the Scotland Yard
    control room to every CCTV camera in central London, he said.

    The advantage CCTV operators have in London appears to be a wireless
    CCTV network based on infrastructure built separately to BT's.
    Called Manchester Metronet, all the council's new CCTV cameras are
    connected to it, including the six that were trained over Wilmslow
    Road in July.

    Metronet announced this week that it had completed putting in a
    wireless network that had the capacity to carry live video images
    from Manchester's entire network of CCTV cameras.

    The firm is, however, a long way off snatching them from BT, whose
    fixed pipes normally carry the images to the city's CCTV control
    room. The costs already sunk in the physical fibre optic cables
    laid under pavements by BT, providing a dedicated fibre optic cable
    for every CCTV camera, are too high for them to be replaced too
    soon.

    Nevertheless, Manchester Metronet director James McCall said: "On
    average it can cost GBP 15,000 to install a camera [on fibre] and it
    can take up to 150 days. On our network its takes five days and
    GBP 7,750."

    The Register understands it can cost Manchester council GBP 30,000 a
    year to run a single camera over a fixed glass fibre pipe, but just
    GBP 1,000 to run one over a wireless network.

    This was attractive to the police force because it allowed them to
    move cameras where and when they are needed to spot crimes.

    Chief Superintendent Alan Cooper, Greater Manchester Police's
    divisional commander for south Manchester, said in a statement about
    the Wilmslow cameras last month: "CCTV is a powerful weapon in
    preventing and detecting crime and these state-of-the-art cameras
    will be vital in catching criminals and bringing more offenders to
    justice.

    "The location of each camera has been carefully considered and they
    will be monitored by specialist staff who will be fully briefed on
    problem areas and problem offenders. They will be tasked to keep an
    eye out for certain people," he said.

    The usual professional CCTV operators would still operate the
    cameras. Peter Fry, director of the CCTV User Group, said this was
    usual practice.

    Yet McCall said he was talking to Greater Manchester Police about
    giving them the means to tap their police operations straight into
    the city's entire network of CCTV cameras.

    "Manchester City Council are connected to our network, so we'll link
    the police to our network so we can then put IP encoders in place at
    the council and feed them to Manchester City Police," he said.

    He said he did not know anything about SOCA. But neither did South
    Manchester police, which installed the Wilmslow Road cameras in
    collaboration with the council, with funding from three local banks
    and a property firm.

    A spokeswoman for the force was unclear about how the Wilmslow Road
    cameras were used by the police and did not know of any grander plan
    for the police to have direct operational access to city centre
    cameras. She thought their images might only be piped to the
    council CCTV control room under the direction of the police.

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