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Thursday, May 13, 1999 Published at 17:06 GMT 18:06 UK


Panic buttons on street corners

Installed for a week and 29 false calls so far

Panic buttons have been installed on street corners in a Hampshire town, following the success of CCTV cameras in cutting crime in the area.

The six bright yellow "help points" have been installed near the CCTV positions in Eastleigh town centre.

Lorraine Smythe: "If there has been an incident I will automatically call the police"
The strategic positions are around the town's Swan shopping centre, in the multi-storey car park and at a children's play area.

Any member of the public pressing the button is instantly put through to a control centre, which in turn puts emergencies through to the police.

[ image: The view from the control centre]
The view from the control centre
CCTV operator Lorraine Smyth said: "If people are frightened, we can train the camera on them and follow them to their car.

"If they're being followed or something has happened, then I will automatically call police."

Fear of crime

Len Shelton from Eastleigh Borough Council told BBC News Online the points had been installed not to reduce crime - Eastleigh's crime rates are a third lower than the national average - but to reduce the perception of crime among members of the public.

Surveys before and after the installation of CCTV had shown shoppers, parents and visitors to the town would feel safer with such help points installed.

Mr Shelton said research conducted since the points were installed had shown the public were "encouraged" by them.

Inspector Gerry Thorne of Hampshire Police told BBC News Online the CCTV points, installed two years ago, had cut crime rates dramatically - especially thefts from motor vehicles.

But it was too early to say whether the panic points would also prove their worth.

"The points have been up and running for a week and we've had 29 false calls so far," he said.

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