This is Big Brother, the talking camera

A talking CCTV camera
A talking CCTV camera

TALKING cameras could soon be introduced to help tackle rowdy revellers in town centre trouble spots.

Hartlepool Borough Council is considering plans to install equipment to turn existing CCTV cameras in Church Street and York Road into talking cameras.

The three-month trial could be up and running as early as September.

Civic chiefs say examples of talking cameras elsewhere show that they can be an “effective tool” in reducing incidents of violent and aggressive behaviour.

The scheme allows an operator in the CCTV monitoring centre to communicate with troublemakers - but revellers cannot speak back to the operators.

Officers say the aim is to crack down on anti-social behaviour, help police manage the night time economy and help prevent incidents from escalating.

The cameras are already in place, but to adapt them to broadcast messages will cost about £2,800.

Hartlepool Mayor Stuart Drummond is set to discuss the move next week at a meeting of his community safety and housing portfolio.

There are other areas that have similar schemes.

Middlesbrough Borough council introduced seven talking cameras in the town centre three years ago to tackle litter louts.

A report by Sally Forth, community safety manager at the council, said: “CCTV operators located within the monitoring centre will utilise live camera images to identify emerging or actual incidents and where appropriate, use the microphone to broadcast appropriate messages.

“The experiences of the system operating within Middlesbrough have been considered and will be used as the basis for the quality and appropriateness of messages.”

The report said the Middlesbrough scheme had such an impact that the council has reduced the number of street cleaning crews from six to two, allowing the staff to be used elsewhere.

Bristol City Council also installed similar technology in 2007 to tackle night time-related violent behaviour, anti-social behaviour including people urinating in the street and littering.

The report added: “Whilst night time economy incidents are only sometimes curtailed by voice intervention, there is strong evidence that escalation of incidents has been considerably reduced.”

Mayor Drummond is asked to support the trial, which if successful, could be rolled out to other areas of town.

The police, businesses, community leaders and CCTV operatives will be consulted after the trial to see if there is enough support to roll it out.

If the plans are backed, the talking cameras will be in place in Church Street at the junction with Station Approach and at the junction of York Road and Victoria Road on the Co-op building.

Because of nearby residents the audio level would be capped at 60 decibels.

The Church Street camera is ready to go live from September and the York Road one would follow shortly after.

The idea of using talking cameras in Hartlepool was first raised back in 2008 during a scrutiny investigation.

Mayor Drummond is due to meet at the Civic Centre, in York Road, on Friday, September 2, at 10am.