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  1. Culture
4 April 2007

Text the CCTV camera?

City councils are developing ways for the public to text CCTV if they witness suspicious activity.

By Mike Butcher

Whatever you think about CCTV cameras, they are a friend to the vulnerable when no one else is around, especially in these days when city centres seem overtaken, post 6pm, by drinkers. With 999 services either overwhelmed or simply off the hook- usually the media can’t decide which – what do you do? Cambridge City Council, which is nominated for an NMA award, decided they had the answer: get people to text message those in the CCTV control room.

In a 21st century version of checking where the police box is (for those who have know idea what I am talking about, think Tardis), the council allows people to contact the CCTV control room directly if they see something going on. As the entry says, “Giving out our telephone number was not operationally practical. But with the proliferation of mobile telephones the solution was to set up a direct texting service.”

Tellingly, the service was suggested by the public. One can guess why. The area in question includes Soham where two girls where abducted and murdered.

Apparently, it’s proving popular with the public, media and our other partners. Now the council is considering rolling out texting services to its other departments.

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