All eyes on us: CCTV leading the fight against terrorism in British transport

With the US, Japan and several other countries issuing warnings about travel through Europe- and France issuing a UK terror alert advising ‘extreme vigilance’ on British public transport and popular attractions, the BSIA looks at the UK’s response, and how technology is attempting to prevent another tragedy like 7/7.

The advancements in security technology in transport means that the UK is the ‘CCTV Capital of the world’. Developments in this field mean that there are now extremely sophisticated methods that could help foil a terrorist plot on British soil.

Starting with the implementation of ‘Smart CCTV’ or Video Content Analysis, which uses complex algorithms that detect suspicious behaviour in public places such as railway stations, identify suspect packages on platforms, and even identify smoke. Once the system has identified a potential threat, it raises the alarm to a CCTV operator, who will be able to decide how to proceed, without having to monitor hundreds of camera feeds.

One capability of particular 
interest for railways is the potential to set up a detection tripwire. 
This enables the creation of virtual tripwires either along existing fence lines 
or in areas where physical security is impossible or impractical such as railway 
tracks. In this case, alarms associated with the detection tripwire can be 
enabled across the software generated threshold. 
This ability to identify intruders rapidly, in real time, can potentially mean 
the difference between reactive and proactive steps being taken to combat intruders.

It also has reactive benefits, as CCTV can be used to track suspects movements in real time, or after an event, as was with 7/7. With the new terrorist threat facing these shores, from fears of a Mumbai style ‘commando’ attack growing, as well as the increased threat from dissident Irish Republicans, having an adaptable, flexible security solution is crucial.

Use of VCA in the transport industry has risen by 23% in the past year according to a BSIA survey in 2010, and with the rise in sophistication of the technology, the use of VCA looks set to rise.

The ability to download feeds means that we are now seeing the widespread deployment of mobile DVRs (Digital Video Recorders) on trains and buses, and other 
parts of the public transport infrastructure. These compact, self-contained systems are capable of continuously monitoring the inside of a carriage or bus. 

The obvious potential of this technology is to address the vulnerability of our extensive public transport infrastructure in the light of events such as 7/7, by helping operators to spot unusual activity.

Pauline Norstrom, chairman of the BSIA’s CCTV section says: “Never has it been more important for the public to remain vigilant against potentially suspicious behavior. However, they should take comfort in the fact that through the advancements in CCTV technology there are more eyes then ever focused on Britain’s transport network CCTV was instrumental in helping the Police to gather vital intelligence which led to them preventing the second attack in London”.

BSIA Website