An extra pair of eyes on Falkirk streets

CCTV team
CCTV team

A man hanging onto the bonnet of a car for dear life as the vehicle careers through Falkirk is not something you see every day.

However, that incident – the subject of a high-profile court case earlier this year – was all in a day’s work for the tight-knit team at Alloa-based Forth Valley CCTV Management Group.

Not only did camera operators help bring about a quick resolution to something which could have ended in tragedy, their footage also secured a conviction.

This one example perfectly sums up what the FVCCTV is all about.

“Public safety is at the core of the organisation,” said general manager Abda Ali.

“People have great concerns about the number of police officers who are potentially going to be removed from the streets in the coming years.

‘‘If that does happen they should know we are here, providing an extra set of eyes which can allow police resources to be used in the best way possible.”

An experienced CCTV operator from Falkirk goes further, stating: “I’m very pro-CCTV – if it’s used correctly it can actually prevent crimes and, if a crime does occur, help detect it.

“We are not spying on anyone, we are here to try and protect people and make them feel as safe as possible.”

And staff must feel safe too.

Abda added: “We have police and Remploy staff working for us and try to ensure we remain a close-knit family.

‘‘We have a duty of care to all our members and, if they witness something horrific like a murder, then we ask them if they are okay to continue and have an extensive debriefing session after their shift.”

When you visit the CCTV centre the first thing that strikes you is the wall of screens, covering familiar streets in the Clackmannanshire, Falkirk, Grangemouth and Stirling areas.

The next thing you notice is how intently each operator is viewing them.

All staff are Security Industry Authority trained and have learned everything from data protection legislation to the technical aspects of operating the camera system itself.

There is also invaluable “on the job” experience which operators pick up over time.

The shift leader from Falkirk, a CCTV operator for eight years, said: “You’ve got to be alert at all times - you never know what is going to happen or when. The camera doesn’t lie and the more good images of a crime or incident you catch on camera the better.

“It’s down to body language as well - you get to know if someone is going to react a certain way and you can contact police, direct them to the area and hopefully stop something getting out of hand.

“There happens to be an ongoing problem with purse snatching in the area just now, but we constantly monitor pedestrians and traffic all the time, looking for anything out of the ordinary - things like public disturbance or someone the worse for wear due to 
alcohol.”

Through links with initiatives like Pubwatch and Retailers Against Crime, operators can give people a heads-up about certain potentially troublesome individuals who happen to show up in their vicinity.

Constantly monitoring police communications, operators can also contact and speak to officers directly.

“I can direct police to the exact location of a crime,” said the Falkirk man. “Maybe someone has hidden away in a garden - I can tell police which bush he is hiding behind.

“We do get a few shouts for missing persons and I get a lot of satisfaction out of finding them. The quicker we get the information and description through the quicker we can get on looking out for them before they come to any harm.”

The team also includes three police officers - experts at analysing, reviewing and collating any evidence the camera operators may have captured and getting the footage court ready for the prosecution’s case.