New police volunteers sought to monitor Melton CCTV cameras

Roger Petchey, lead volunteer for Melton police, monitors live CCTV footage of the town centre streets on his banks of screens EMN-170708-162138001
Roger Petchey, lead volunteer for Melton police, monitors live CCTV footage of the town centre streets on his banks of screens EMN-170708-162138001
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A recruitment drive has been launched to find new people to help monitor CCTV cameras across Melton town centre.

Those taken on will be tasked to watch live feeds from 16 different camera angles to help police respond to crime.

A screen showing live footage from the 16 CCTV cameras positioned around Melton EMN-170708-162054001

A screen showing live footage from the 16 CCTV cameras positioned around Melton EMN-170708-162054001

They will also liaise with shopkeepers and pub staff by radio to assist in preventing shoplifting, thefts and anti-social behaviour.

A dozen volunteers currently man the scheme, which is run from an office at Melton police station, and another six are sought.

Lead police volunteer Roger Petchey began as one of the monitors back in 2001 and he enjoys the opportunity to give something back to the community after retiring from full-time work.

He said: “It can involve hours of monitoring interspersed with 15 minutes of frenetic activity.

Roger Petchey, lead volunteer for Melton police, in the CCTV control room at the town station EMN-170708-162105001

Roger Petchey, lead volunteer for Melton police, in the CCTV control room at the town station EMN-170708-162105001

“We have people from all kinds of backgrounds who work with us and I would highly recommend it to people who want to help their community.”

The cameras record digital pictures for 24 hours, seven days a week, and footage is retained for 28 days in case officers need to refer back to it.

The pictures are not actually viewed all the time but they are during busy times of the day and night.

Dome-shaped cameras are suspended around four metres from ground level to give a panoramic sweep across the town centre.

The police CCTV camera in Market Place, Melton, with historic St Mary's Church behind EMN-170708-162116001

The police CCTV camera in Market Place, Melton, with historic St Mary's Church behind EMN-170708-162116001

Roger showed how it was possible to zoom in on people, places or objects to detect when anything suspicious might be happening.

“If someone comes into the town we are able to track them continuously,” he explained.

“We can zoom in very close on recorded footage as well as the live feed.

“You become quite an expert on body language. There is no audio but the skilled operators will pick up on people just by the way they walk or react to other people.”

Although it is based in the police station, the CCTV set-up is provided by Melton Council in partnership with the Safer Melton Partnership.

The initial system was installed with just eight cameras in 1998 at the then police HQ in Leicester Road, with footage recorded on VHS video tapes.

It moved to the new station 15 years ago and now operates on a digital recording system.

The link-up between the council and police is unique in Leicestershire as other CCTV operations are wholly local authority-run.

Monitors are in contact with traders during the day to assist with the SMART retail crime scheme and with publicans at night for the Pubwatch initiative.

“We don’t control the police and where they go, we just pass on information to the control room and they decide what to do with it,” said Roger.

“One of our duties is to help manage those people who are banned from the town centre, as we can alert officers if we spot any of them.”

Concern has been expressed in the past that CCTV cameras impinge on people’s privacy by acting as a ‘big brother’ style spying operation.

But the cameras are programmed not to record images in sensitive areas of the town or in places where people live.

Recorded footage is carefully controlled and only released when it can help police in their enquiries.

“People need to be confident that when they walk through the town centre we are not using the cameras in an intrusive way,” said Roger.

New volunteers are sought to man the hours of the night time economy in Melton, when the town is at its busiest on Friday and Saturday nights. A minimum eight hours a month is required and full training is given.

The role can also lead to other voluntary positions with the police, such as DNA recording and finger printing, speed monitoring and acting as casualties ast major exercises.

Go to www.leics.police.uk/join-us/police-support-volunteers to find out more details and apply for one of the CCTV volunteer vacancies.