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Page last updated at 12:20 GMT, Wednesday, 10 December 2008
City gets 'crime-detecting' CCTV

By Dan Whitworth
Newsbeat technology reporter

CCTV control room

Anti-social behaviour has become a familiar sight in some towns and cities across the country.

Now there's a new weapon in the fight against it called Smart CCTV.

Portsmouth City Council is the first, and so far only, local authority in the UK to try out the new system.

It's a computer programme that has been integrated into the city's existing network of 152 cameras and has been programmed to spot unusual behaviour in places and at times when it's not expected.

For example, a speeding car being driven around an empty car park could be a joy rider or someone running through a deserted shopping precinct late at night might be a vandal.

When those and similar scenarios are 'spotted' by the software, using special parameters from programmers, an alarm is sounded which alerts CCTV operators to that particular camera.

Ray Stead
Ray says Smart CCTV takes some of the strain off human operators
They then make a decision about whether or not to call the police.

Ray Stead runs the CCTV operation for Portsmouth City Council.

He said: "With the total number of CCTV cameras that we have, 152, the operators cannot see all of those cameras or monitor them live.

"So this software programme will actually help the operators become more effective."

It's already been used in parts of seven cities across America, in places like New York and Washington DC, where the feedback has been positive.

Nick Hewitson helped design the version Portsmouth City Council is using.

He said: "It filters out all the rubbish video that you don't want and lets you see the stuff that you do want.

"So you're using human beings for doing what they do well, making subjective decisions on incomplete data.

"And using computers to do what they do well, process tonnes and tonnes of boring data."

But not everyone in Portsmouth is as convinced by the new system as Ray Stead and Nick Hewitson.

Samilia Narcho
Similia thinks the system is too much of an invasion of privacy
Samilia Narcho, 19, told Newsbeat: "They are lurking a bit too much into people's business. It's a bit unfair on people who aren't doing anything wrong.

"It's a bit too much invasion of privacy. Big Brother going a bit too far."

But 18-year-old Chris isn't worried about being watched.

He said: "It doesn't really bother me because I'm not doing anything wrong, so I've got nothing to worry about."

Berry, who's 24, and 21-year-old Becky Pearson have different opinions on the new CCTV system.

Berry said: "I think it's pretty good because there are a lot of idiots in Portsmouth and they need to be kept under wraps."

Becky added: "I can see why people think it's a bit too much, with people being too watched."

The Smart CCTV technology is on trial in Portsmouth but if it proves successful, other UK cities could set up similar systems.

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