PIONEERING work by Cheshire police in using CCTV images and archive photographs of criminals to identify suspects has been praised by a Government minister.
In the three months since April, when the trailblazing system was introduced, work by Cheshire Constabulary’s visual identification officers has led to 169 suspects being named and 75 crimes detected.
Cheshire police deputy chief constable Graeme Gerrard said: “We have been developing the approach in Cheshire and we are regarded as one of the more advanced forces in managing and using images from CCTV.
“The issue with CCTV is there is a lot of it there, but it’s no good having lots of cameras if you then don’t have the capability to recover the images.”
Following a crime, forensic experts take still images from any available CCTV footage and search Cheshire police’s database to determine if there is a match.
Mr Gerrard said: “They put it on a system called Caught On Camera that is then viewed by all staff in the force.
“If we can’t identify them from there then some of them go on our website, www.cheshire police.co.uk, so the public can identify them.”
Minister for crime prevention James Brokenshire MP visited Cheshire police HQ in Winsford on Monday to learn more about the force’s use of the footage.
“It’s about giving the public assurance that CCTV is being used appropriately, so that you can have confidence in public spaces and have a private life in public space, but at the same time ensuring we are using cameras and equipment and the images that have been captured are an effective way as possible to detect crime,” said Mr Brokenshire.
“I think there are good lessons that could be learned from here in Cheshire in terms of the use of CCTV images for forensic purposes to identify criminals and bring them to justice.”
With hundreds of jobs due to be cut at Cheshire Constabulary, The Pioneer asked the visiting MP if the Government’s emphasis on CCTV was to compensate for a reduction in police staff.
“That is not the context because we have had a large amount of investment in CCTV over recent years, some estimate it could be as much as £500m invested in systems across the country,” said Mr Brokenshire.
“My focus is ensuring those systems and the money being spent is being used effectively and equally, ensuring the public have confidence in its use.
“I think there are some very good examples that can be taken from the way Cheshire is using CCTV, which is one of the reasons I wanted to come up to the briefing here to see some of the practical uses which CCTV images are being applied.
“The feeling for some time has been that the CCTV systems and the use of the technology in the criminal justice arena have evolved without having an overarching frame work and strategy.
“We are looking at the systems in terms of issues around retention, use of the data and sharing of the data to ensure there are appropriate safeguards in place so the public can have confidence in the focus of its use and indeed that things are being used properly.
“The next step is to develop our proposals in relation to regulation and then finalise plans that we can take forward.”