Inside Tower Hamlets’ CCTV ‘nerve centre’ as Aberfeldy Estate cameras are installed to cut crime

The CCTV nerve centre in the town hall at Mulberry Place detecting and deterring crime and disorder

The CCTV nerve centre in the town hall at Mulberry Place detecting and deterring crime and disorder in the borough - Credit: Archant

Big Brother has gained a new pair of eyes as four new CCTV cameras were installed on the Aberfeldy Estate in Poplar.

The Mayor, Lutfur Rahman, and his deputy, Cllr Ohid Ahmed

The Mayor, Lutfur Rahman, and his deputy, Cllr Ohid Ahmed - Credit: Archant

The new cameras – some of them visible at street level, some hidden from view – bring the number of cameras across Tower Hamlets to 320, and join a network of surveillance that spans the country.

The Mayor, Lutfur Rahman, and his deputy, Cllr Ohid Ahmed

The Mayor, Lutfur Rahman, and his deputy, Cllr Ohid Ahmed - Credit: Archant

These latest cameras are a response by police and the council to residents asking for more security cameras to prevent crime in the area, particularly anti-social behaviour.

The Mayor, Lutfur Rahman, and his deputy, Cllr Ohid Ahmed

The Mayor, Lutfur Rahman, and his deputy, Cllr Ohid Ahmed - Credit: Archant

The 24-hour cameras, installed last week, are linked to a “nerve centre” at the town hall in Mulberry Place, near East India Dock station.

Officers working for the council monitor the cameras on more than 70 television screens.


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The screens are hooked-up to police stations, such as that in Limehouse, and can beam a live feed directly onto TV screens in front of police officers.

CCTV operators have four red squares in the centre of their screens that show what images are being sent to the police.

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They are in radio contact with police and can help track suspects or alert police of crimes they spot as they occur.

Officers in this CCTV control room, which opened in May 2006, even monitor the television news in case of breaking stories.

A council spokesman said: “We have always had issues on the Aberfeldy Estate with anti-social behaviour, vehicle crime, stolen motorbikes, cars etc. Delivery drivers are often targeted on the estate.”

She said a change in technology – radio transmitters with greater power and bandwidth – means CCTV can now reach areas like the Aberfeldy Estate which had previously gone without.

The system has a good track record. Last year 2,459 incidents saw the CCTV room assist police by providing images and information.

There were also 888 arrests due to “pro-active” work by the CCTV team, when they either detected a crime taking place or tracked down suspects.

In February 2014 alone, the CCTV room handled 269 incidents, and so far this year 109 arrests have occurred as a result of pro-active work by the team.

Video footage taken by the cameras is stored for 30 days before it is destroyed.

Police can intervene to save footage that might help them with their investigations or to secure a criminal conviction.

This footage is downloaded onto a DVD and kept for up to six months.

The cameras are funded using the council’s mainstream capital funding, with nearly £300,000 granted to the CCTV department in 2012/13.

The formal installation of the new cameras on the Aberfeldy Estate last Wednesday was attended by Lutfur Rahman, Mayor of Tower Hamlets.

He was joined by Deputy Mayor, Cllr Ohid Ahmed, and a swarm of Bengali-language reporters and cameramen.

The mayor said: “Community safety is one of our top priorities, and these arrest figures show how effective CCTV can be in helping us to tackle a wide-range of crime and anti-social behaviour.

“They also demonstrate our commitment to working in partnership with the police to make Tower Hamlets safer.”

Ch Insp Tony Gowen, who is in charge of partnership at Tower Hamlets police, said: “This installation gives us a greater visibility and more eyes on the streets.

“Tower Hamlets police recognise the benefits of CCTV in our communities and see the CCTV system installed by the council as being beneficial to the wider community, in supporting police to reduce crime and disorder and make the Aberfeldy Estate a safer place for our residents.”

CCTV operators say Whitechapel Road and Brick Lane are the “trouble spots”, with most incidents taking place on Fridays and weekends.

Last year saw 409 pro-active arrests in Whitechapel ward, the highest of any ward in the borough.

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