Follow our force Twitter accounts and on any given day you’re almost certainly going to notice officers mentioning that they’re out making some ‘CCTV enquiries’ at local shops, pubs and clubs.
Being one of our strongest sources of evidence, CCTV is usually the first thing that we check for after some crime has happened and the images captured by the cameras are often the evidence that help convince juries of someone’s guilt.
Important as CCTV is though, it may surprise you how tricky and time consuming it can be to get our sticky hands on those few crucial frames.
As a general rule, it is mandatory that every CCTV system uses its own obscure file format, that every manufacturer has their own complicated viewing software and that neither the files nor the software will be compatible with our own computers.
Not helpful enough?
Throw into the mix that in the CCTV industry, instruction booklets are generally frowned upon and even when we turn up at an incident and find that the world’s most awesome CCTV system was installed only yesterday, its owner will almost certainly not have a clue how to work it.
Sorry, still not helpful enough you say?
I forgot to mention we also have to spend many unhappy hours travelling around the West Midlands seizing discs/USB sticks/VHS cassettes, scribbling out production statements and booking all of this lot into the property store.
Surely there must be an easier way of doing things? Well, turns out there is…
Facewatch is an online system now used in the West Midlands and by other police forces and businesses up and down the country to help make employing CCTV evidence a whole lot quicker, easier and more effective for everyone.
Rather than us rozzers having to go and faff around with discs, unknown CCTV pin codes and ‘.pvr format unrecognised, please upgrade gigabubble codec and reintegrate with matrix’ error messages, everything can be done via the tubes of the interweb.
Using the Facewatch site, a business can both report a crime and upload the relevant CCTV footage straight to the net so that us officers can then pull an evidential package off at the station and commence enquiries without having to do everything manually.
Sound good? It gets better!
Not only are the images shared with ourselves, they can also be uploaded to an online gallery so that other businesses and members of the public can look at them and identify trouble causers.
The public galleries I can see being especially useful as for most offences, we only circulate offender images internally to see if other officers can pick out faces. Having more eyes on the pictures increases the chances that someone will be able to put names to the faces.
If you’re a business interested in saving time by using the Facewatch system or a member of the public wanting to help punch crime in its scowling face, you can find out more about the service on their website, their Twitter account or Facebook page.
It’s still in early stages and more images are being added daily, but take a look at the Facewatch ID site to see some of the images already uploaded and check out the mobile app too for some ‘on the move’ crime fighting.
CCTV footage can be a very effective, damning form of evidence. Facewatch makes it even more effective for us and even more inconvenient for the criminals, tipping the balance further in our favour. Hurrah!