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''Tag' plan to track police

PUBLISHED: 09:51 10 April 2009 | UPDATED: 13:40 03 July 2010

EVERY bobby in Norfolk is to be “tagged” so police chiefs can track their every movement in a bid to improve 999 responses.

Police vehicles across the county have already been equipped with trackers which beam their precise location back to the force control room in real time.

EVERY bobby in Norfolk is to be “tagged” so police chiefs can track their every movement in a bid to improve 999 responses.

Police vehicles across the county have already been equipped with trackers which beam their precise location back to the force control room in real time. The Automatic Vehicle Location System (AVLS) came into operation this week and means that for the first time the force can accurately map all of its units, providing more information to help deploy the most appropriate teams.

Later this year the system will be extended so controllers can also monitor the movements of every frontline police officer - meaning they can respond on foot more easily and be closely tracked when entering dangerous situations.

Combined with equipment which pinpoints the locations of 999 callers, the system will allow officers to home in on incidents to within a matter of metres.

It will also make it easier to account for the activities of each officer, for example in monitoring performance and responding to public complaints.

Paul Hart, in charge of the system, said: “We can see the location of each vehicle, which direction it's travelling in and what speed it's travelling at.

“The system also provides an estimated response coverage area for each vehicle including speed limits, the nature of individual roads and geographical obstacles such as rivers. If a vehicle is closest as the crow flies, it is not necessarily the best able to respond.

“We can combine this with our knowledge of weather conditions, such as snow or rain, or special events, like football matches, which may cause delays.

“Once the person location system is running, we will have a huge wealth of resources available to us on just one screen and will be able to filter it to highlight which units are most relevant to each situation.”

It comes after the force closed 29 of its 35 response stations, leaving just Norwich, Yarmouth, King's Lynn, Thetford, Fakenham and Aylsham.

However, chief constable Ian McPherson has insisted the move should actually improve coverage as vehicles spend more time on patrol. The AVLS means that controllers can ensure an even spread of vehicles to the areas where they are most needed and plug any gaps that open up.

Although other police forces have similar systems, once the people location system is running, Norfolk will be one of the most advanced in the country.

Officers' radios are already equipped with trackers but these have not yet been activated.

It is so sophisticated that operators will be able to filter the map to show only the officers with the skills required to deal with a specific incident - for example, a woman trained in handling victims of sexual assaults.

So far, a total of 150 vehicles including response teams, crime scene investigators, road police, armed response units, dog handlers and unmarked vehicles have been fitted with the equipment at a cost of £272,000.

No target has been set to speed up response times, but the force expects a marked improvement. At present they aim to respond within 15 minutes in urban areas and 20 in rural locations.

Until now, vehicles would be allocated to call signs, meaning they could not leave a specific police sector without permission. This meant the closest vehicle could not always be deployed and it was harder to map a route or estimate a time of arrival.

Now the real-time map, described by Mr Hart as a “giant game of chess”, allows vehicles to move more flexibly across sectors.

It will also mean that safer neighbourhood officers can be deployed if they are closest to the scene.

Supt Stuart Gunn said the system would also increase the force's ability to respond to complaints from the public. He said: “If we have a complaint about a particular officer or a vehicle being driven in a certain way, it will be far easier to verify whether or not that complaint is justified.”


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