Without camera footage, Chris Garlick would be working with one hand tied behind his back. He’d be relying on residents signing anti-social behaviour statements – causing further neighbour fallouts. Resolving problems would prove lengthy and contorted.
Thankfully, Accent Housing saw the value of cloud CCTV some years ago. The group now rents 20 deployable systems across five regions, in addition to running permanent CCTV in key locations. And what a difference it’s made.
Chris is Customer Partner for Accent’s Cambridgeshire region: “I’m used to handling a variety of complaints, ranging from nuisance to crime. Overseeing 500 properties, I deploy five rented CCTV systems across 13 different housing schemes.”
Instant evidence to name and shame
Without doubt, Chris’ biggest CCTV results concern fly tipping.
“It’s a major issue for us, especially in central Peterborough. On one site, there’s 70 flats and both communal areas were used as a dumping ground. And it was happening daily,” he said.
“Quite often, it’s down to three or four residents, but everyone picks up the clearance bill in their service charges. I’m very proactive and I’ll send out letters highlighting the cost of fly tipping to individual properties. Many don’t realise it’s a cost to them personally.
In a recent instance, my CCTV caught a man dumping a washing machine at night. I quickly downloaded and emailed ‘name and shame’ images to residents asking them to identify the man. Three did. That meant I could give him a warning. Next time, we’d prosecute. I couldn’t have done that without cloud CCTV confirming it was him.
I can also use ANPR cameras to pick out the car licence plate at night. Because imagine the heartache when you look at the footage and you can’t read the number plate.
The video also gives me enough evidence to prosecute. If residents don’t want to give statements, I’ve got more wiggle room to liaise with the police and make progress. That said, I’ll always try and mediate first.
Because we rent our CCTV systems from VisionOn, we can quickly move them around, always focusing on problem areas. It’s proactive camera deployment to keep on top of things,” said Chris.
Video footage in your pocket
Using cloud CCTV is “super handy” for Chris. Unlike non-cloud systems, he (and his colleagues) can access footage on any mobile device – anytime, anywhere.
“If I can’t sleep at night, I’ll watch CCTV from my sofa! Or if I’ve got 10 minutes parked up in the car at lunchtime, I’ll take a look. Viewing from any handheld device, I can easily show the footage to a resident or provide remote access to the police in minutes.
Once, I was standing in front of a resident saying: ‘I’m pretty sure that’s you because there you are with your dog in my video!’
I can download footage and take pictures from it too. It’s invaluable, allowing me to react quickly to sort things out. We tend to put cameras up in a location for three months and see what happens,” said Chris.
Part of Accent Housing’s anti-social behaviour toolkit, Chris will negotiate with his budget holders when he wants to temporarily deploy cloud CCTV on a site. They’ll know he’s tried basic remedial methods first.
Next, Chris will visit the site to consider where cloud CCTV should be installed.
“I’ll take photos or video call VisionOn from site. I’ll show them the offending area and what I want to watch. Then we’ll identify the power source – because that’s all we need. Working together saves then having to visit twice and gets my cameras in place faster. It’s usually just a week or so.
VisionOn will then call me and say they’ve set it up and can I check it’s providing the right view. As a team, we work well together,” said Chris.
One interesting advantage of rented CCTV is the potential to trial it in an area before choosing to install a permanent system.
“Sometimes, we’ll resolve the problem using rented CCTV, then place a camera there permanently, if the issue could return. We’ve got clear justification for the investment then,” said Chris.
You must use it to get results
Chris is clear about one thing – CCTV is not just a box. You can’t simply put it up and ignore it until something happens. Not if you want to stamp out anti-social behaviour.
“Having a camera there and not doing anything with it is a waste of time. You have to get the message across to residents it’s not a dummy camera. That’s why I send out videos and images of people fly tipping. It shows my camera is active – not just a box,” said Chris.
Having cloud CCTV can work the other way too. When you pursue complaints on hearsay, without evidence, a lot of time can be consumed before establishing the facts.
Chris explained: “Installing cloud CCTV has helped me better handle repeat complainants who can be a big waste of time. I’ve put cameras up and quickly shown them the problem isn’t anywhere near as bad as they’re making out.”
Other Customer Partners at Accent Housing have asked Chris how he’s achieved success of controlling anti-social behaviour on his sites.
“They’ve come to me and said: ‘How’ve you done that?’ So, I’ve explained how I send out name and shame emails, and proactively use the video footage on my mobile.
If I received the fine Peterborough Council get on prosecuting, the cameras would annually pay for themselves after three prosecutions. Meanwhile, Accent gets the knock-on benefit of significantly less anti-social behaviour. Deployable cloud CCTV really is an invaluable tool when used correctly,” concluded Chris.