When your starting point is a disparate collection of CCTV cameras – many of which you can’t access – it’s hard to feel confident you’ll capture key evidence.
That was the situation Paul Stevens took on when he joined PA Housing as Tenancy Solutions Enforcement Officer.
“The existing CCTV had been installed by many different companies. Staff had moved on and left no access details. I had to start right at the beginning,” said Paul.
400% increase in workload
PA Housing manages over 23,000 properties across the Midlands, London, and the South-East. This includes social housing, independent living schemes and shared ownership.
Paul helps to manage anti-social behaviour issues, ranging from noise nuisance to severe crime. His police background means he’s keen to work closely with agencies to get results.
“Tenants and the police refer problems to us. We’ll work hand in hand with them to achieve a positive resolution. In fact, our power of injunctions can be more useful than criminal powers the police have.
Sadly, the Covid-19 situation has stretched people to absolute breaking point and our workload has risen by 400%. I’ve never known anything like it. This impacts the quality of peoples’ lives every day and we need a full antisocial behaviour toolkit to make progress – which includes effective CCTV,” Paul explained.
From one laptop to all devices
Once Paul identified who maintained the various cameras, he hit further problems: “The program used to play back CCTV footage couldn’t get through our firewalls. It only worked on a single, standalone laptop, shared across teams. Getting access was a challenge – certainly not a quick thing.
I also discovered many cameras in poor positions. They’d been installed by someone who didn’t understand antisocial behaviour and made a ‘best guess’ on positioning. It felt like some cameras had been put up simply for the sake of having them.
But the biggest issue was not having instant access to camera footage. When a situation arose, it was a real problem for us.”
Already known to a couple of PA Housing sites, Paul got in touch with VisionOn. He’d heard about their deployable cloud CCTV systems for housing associations. Meeting Duncan and Kayleigh to explain his frustrations, he realised this was the way forward.
“They use tether browser-based software, which means we can access video footage on any device. Having instant access is game-changing.”
“They use tether browser-based software, which means we can access video footage on any device. Having instant access is game-changing. I recently had a phone call from the police on my day off. They were dealing with an urgent situation and wanted to know if someone had entered a building. I pulled up the CCTV footage on my mobile app, from the comfort of my sofa, and instantly told them what had just happened. This type of collaboration saves us, and the police, time and money.
It’s not just Paul that has 24/7 access to the video footage, the entire enforcement team know what’s going on, wherever they are.
Paul described the system as “user-friendly” and “idiot-proof”. If you can use a computer, he said, you’d easily get to grips with the browser-based system.
Cameras where you need them – fast
As PA Housing rents cloud CCTV systems from VisionOn, they can get a camera on the action quickly. Antisocial behaviour moves around. Currently renting 20 deployable systems on various sites, VisionOn manages everything.
“I’ll demonstrate what I want to capture, and they’ll try their utmost to achieve it. I do create some headaches for them – our collaborative working relationship is vital.”
Paul explained: “We tend to keep cameras in place for three months. That’s long enough to change behaviour or gather evidence. Then we’ll move to another problem. I just call Duncan or Kayleigh at VisionOn and they’ll meet me on site. I’ll demonstrate what I want to capture, and they’ll try their utmost to achieve it. I do create some headaches for them – our collaborative working relationship is vital.”
Using a variety of different camera specifications, the deployable systems are incredibly flexible.
“We had to use a covert camera in one situation. An overt camera would have disrupted the behaviour before we had evidence. It was a difficult conversation with the suffering tenant, but the only way to stop it completely. On another occasion, the police asked us to use ANPR cameras for their intelligence. Being able to say yes fosters better working relationships with them,” he said.
And by renting the CCTV, Paul always relies on VisionOn to keep them operational.
“Cameras can fail sometimes. But VisionOn will tell me before I tell them as they monitor everything remotely. And they’ll fix it. We don’t have to store hardware and there’s no cost for maintenance – it’s all part and parcel of our contract. We don’t have to install anything or handle electrical wiring ourselves either. It’s all down to VisionOn, they’re qualified to complete everything.”
Don’t let GDPR stop you
Paul knows many housing associations avoid installing CCTV for fear of breaching GDPR. But VisionOn keep you on the right side of legislation, he says:
“The benefit of having CCTV far outweighs any hoops you have to jump through for GDPR. I’ve got full compliance documents from VisionOn, so I’m 100% covered.”
“People don’t understand GDPR. The legislation isn’t there to stop you doing anything. It’s there to help ensure you do things correctly. The benefit of having CCTV far outweighs any hoops you have to jump through for GDPR. I’ve got full compliance documents from VisionOn, so I’m 100% covered. If we split our deployable CCTV across many providers, we’d leave ourselves open to compliance issues. The last thing I want to do is put the business in a position where the Information Commissioner is asking questions we can’t answer.”
“I’m confident it’s been recorded.”
Paul has total faith in his cloud CCTV systems. They’re always recording what he’s specified, and he can always access the footage on demand.
“Should I get a phone call telling me something happened at 11pm last night, I’m confident it’s been recorded. I don’t have to worry about whether the cameras are working or not. I can say: ‘Yeah, I’ll get that footage for you.’
“I don’t have to drill into the finer detail because they know where I’m coming from. And they’ll go to the nth degree to achieve what I want.”
I’d describe our relationship with VisionOn as a partnership. I don’t see them as a contractor. Combining my housing and police background, and their technical knowledge is a formidable strength. We have conversations where we just get each other. I don’t have to drill into the finer detail because they know where I’m coming from. And they’ll go to the nth degree to achieve what I want. If we didn’t have success through cloud CCTV, the management wouldn’t keep providing the budget. We’re continually demonstrating the benefit though.
I think the development of cameras, and what they can achieve, will keep getting better. Facial recognition will happen in the future and I’m talking to Duncan about 360-degree fish-eye cameras and cannabis detectors – something that’s being used in America. We’ll work together to find a solution for us,” concluded Paul.
Get the evidence you need quickly. Reassure your residents where it matters. Whatever you need from Cloud CCTV, we have everything you need to make it happen. you just have to ask. Contact us for an initial discussion or to arrange a demonstration. We’d love to help you. Read more news here