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  • Safer Homes in Walsall

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Safer Homes in Walsall

Walsall housing group installs 380 Panasonic cameras to keep its residents safe.

From the control room inside the Walsall Housing Group (whg) offices at 100 Hatherton Street, Walsall, a team of Technical Specialists monitor much of the social housing across the West Midlands borough.

An extensive network of 380 Panasonic surveillance cameras, cover 17 high rise blocks, displayed across ten 55- inch Panasonic professional displays.

Since being formed in 2003, whg has become one of the West Midlands' leading providers of social housing. The group owns and manages around 19,000 properties across Walsall, housing nearly 40,000 people, a fifth of the borough's population.

Over the decade since, whg has invested £350 million into the estate, which includes the installation of a full Panasonic surveillance system to keep tenants and their property safe. The surveillance system has allowed the whg security team to be more efficient with their resources and time.

"Before the surveillance system was installed, we relied on foot patrols to monitor the blocks every night. With a maximum of only two patrols per night, we weren't really catching anything," said Paul Martin, a Technical Specialist. "With the CCTV recording 24 hours a day it means we can catch more and be reactive. From our control room we can identify incidentsand alert our patrols so they can investigate."

The team doesn't have to manually look through the hundreds of cameras. Thanks to motion detection, activity captured by any camera is automatically brought up on screen. Panasonic also developed an incident manager package specifically for the Group. This makes it easy to track any incidents and integrates with whg's CRM software, allowing for efficient reporting.

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The team doesn't have to manually look through the hundreds of cameras. Thanks to motion detection, activity captured by any camera is automatically brought up on screen. Panasonic also developed an incident manager package specifically for the Group. This makes it easy to track any incidents and integrates with whg's CRM software, allowing for efficient reporting.

The security solution also benefits from an audio system which allows staff in the control room to speak to potential troublemakers.

"The audio is a great tool and it allows us to deal with things right there and then. An example of where we have used that recently was where we had a youth in a block vandalising property, we got onto the audio and told him to leave the block and that the police have been notified. He immediately left the area," Paul Martin continued.

Police Cooperation

WHG has been able to assist the police with the help of the CCTV system to aid in prosecutions and investigations. Their work with the police includes shutting down and preventing illegal activity, often external to the whg properties.

"On one occasion there was a chap who allegedly stole a car. The police asked him where he had been at the time, and he claimed to be in the pub down the road. We had a look through the CCTV and we managed to pull up a chap in a red top and straw hat - matching his description and the location. The police were able to use that footage to aid in a prosecution." Paul Martin remarked.

"We once saw a domestic disturbance taking place with a female's partner dragging her into a property. We called the police and the woman was safe as a result," said Community Safety Manager, Annete Harpin.

Social return on investment

The housing group has calculated that over a three month period, the system has managed to pay for itself through social benefits, like fewer police visits, less ambulance visits, and less visits to the doctors. "It's not just for whg, it's for the people of Walsall," added Annete Harpin.

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Neighbourhood Impact Supervisor, Neil Southall said, "Some residents have spoken to us and stressed how grateful they are that the CCTV is there, they feel much more secure with the knowledge that someone is watching what's happening with the blocks."

Pauline, a resident of whg commented, "Before we were having a lot of problems with people breaking in, using drugs and other things, we didn't really feel safe. Now we have the cameras and security it's fantastic, you can sleep at night, you feel a lot safer and happier. We wouldn't move anywhere else."