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Camera footage has successfully identified the perpetrators of illegal dumping, burglary and assault. Thanks to 36 fixed and 6 mobile cameras, police zone Hauts-Pays has suddenly gained an impressive arsenal of extra eyes.
We generally associate camera surveillance with large cities, or with locations and events where many people gather together. At first sight, this may seem to be in dramatic contrast with the peaceful, rural setting of the police zone Hauts-Pays. But appearances can be deceiving. “The police zone shares a 55 kilometer border with France,” points out Police Chief Frédéric Carton. “We have what is known as border-related crime. We also see that criminals are increasingly using modern technology. So it is up to the police and the local authorities to stay one step ahead of them.” The local authorities of Dour, Hensies, Honnelles and Quiévrain – which together make up the territory of the police zone – allocated a budget to provide the local police with a camera surveillance system. After considering various proposals, the solution offered by Belgacom was chosen.
A watchful eye
Police zone Hauts-Pays has 6 mobile cameras, which are regularly rotated through some 40 locations in the zone. “The battery-powered devices have a battery life of 72 hours,” notes Frédéric Carton. “We export the images and charge the battery and then send the camera to a new location.” The nerve center for the camera surveillance is at the police station in Dour. They recruited three new employees for it. “They quickly scan the images from the mobile cameras,” says Eric Thiébaut, the mayor of Hensies. “They also search for images at the request of the police. The images remain available for one month. Naturally, if the courts request certain images, we keep them for longer.” In addition, the police are also able to perform surveillance in real-time. This is done via a network of 36 fixed cameras. Belgacom was responsible for the complete installation of cameras and viewing monitors. Belgacom also manages the connections. The fixed cameras are connected via the Explore network. The mobile cameras use a wireless connection.
The fact that the system is contributing to safety in the police zone is demonstrated by the statistics kept by the police. “Sometimes it’s just little things,” reflects Carton. “A member of the surveillance staff notices someone littering, or an illegally parked car. Then all it takes is a message to a police officer to go issue the necessary infringement notices.” Sometimes it’s a question of more serious crime. In that case, the cameras can provide important evidence. “There was a case, recently, involving a serious fight, but the perpetrator denied his involvement,” reports Mayor Thiébaut. “However, he was clearly recognizable on the camera footage. Thanks to the camera images we’ve also been able to solve burglaries and a hit-and-run incident.” “The system provides us with an extra tool for fighting crime,” according to Chief Carton. “The mobile cameras give us the necessary flexibility, for large-scale events, for example, such as the music festival in Dour.” In any case, the police zone is very open about their use of the cameras. “We communicate to the community about the cases we’ve been able to solve thanks to the cameras,” concludes Thiébaut. “We clearly demonstrate what we’re using them for and explain this to the town’s residents. Moreover, residents ask proactively to place mobile cameras on specific places. There is a close collaboration between the community, the police and the inhabitants.”
Police zone Hauts-Pays is one of the 195 police zones in Belgium. The zone encompasses the towns of Dour, Hensies, Honnelles and Quiévrain in Henegouwen.
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