New Breckland CCTV in the fight against crime

Chris HillLive images from one of the country's most advanced CCTV networks have been shown to councillors after Breckland's �3.5m system flickered into life.Chris Hill

Live images from one of the country's most advanced CCTV networks have been shown to councillors after Breckland's �3.5m system flickered into life.

The state-of-the-art surveillance tool, designed to replace the district's dilapidated analogue video set-up, is now fully operational and undergoing final testing before its official launch on May 13.

More than 60 digital cameras have been installed in Dereham, Swaffham, Watton, Thetford and Attleborough, providing sharper images and more flexible coverage to help police drive down crime and anti-social behaviour.

Meanwhile, four cameras have been retained to be deployed at short notice to communities and villages where the need arises, taking advantage of the flexibility of a wireless transmission network.

Unlike their cumbersome predecessors, the cameras are able to rotate at a speed of 480deg every second, and can be positioned at the touch of a button from a renovated control centre in Thetford.

They also have infra-red capability for night-time recording, and a 35x optical zoom which, in perfect conditions, can allow an operator to read the number plate of a vehicle more than half a mile away from the camera.

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On Thursday, the pictures were displayed to members of Breckland Council, which has signed a 10-year partnership deal with Advance Monitoring Solutions (AMS) and Axis Communications.

John Wilkins, technical director for AMS, said there was enough capacity in the system to encourage businesses and communities to link into it, generating commercial revenue to offset the cost.

'To say something is state-of-the-art is a hackneyed term, but the technology involved here is truly innovative,' he said. 'People do not see it as Big Brother, they see it as a boon. To get a well-monitored, well-maintained CCTV system will significantly help police to reduce crime and anti-social behaviour.

'But it is an expensive resource and we want to develop commercial and residential monitoring services to help meet the costs and make it a cost-neutral endeavour.'

Mr Wilkins said the previous system was 15 years old and hampered by antiquated equipment and a reliance on fixed cabling.

The new system will record at much higher resolutions, generating a picture of similar quality to a satellite TV signal once an operator has identified a trouble-spot.

Cabinet member Theresa Hewitt said: 'Our community is now set to realise the benefits and potential of one of the most cutting-edge CCTV systems in the country. Our inventive approach once again helps Breckland fight in a division well above its weight.'