Why public space surveillance teams can learn from major event security solutions


Share this content


Public safety is always a primary focus for any town or city hosting a large scale event, from international concerts to key dates in the sporting calendar. And, with UK Protect Duty legislation a definite on the regulatory horizon, this certainly won’t change.

But, what could, and arguably should change, is the idea that surveillance capabilities – implemented as part of major event security strategies – should be thought of as ‘extraordinary measures’ that are only suitable for special occasions.

The technologies employed are often extremely relevant to the challenges those responsible for protecting our urban spaces face daily. In this article, I will be taking a closer look at two specific examples that illustrate this perfectly.

Stakeholders in sync – the value of shared access

In preparation for hosting the 2022 Commonwealth Games, police, local authorities and other key regional stakeholders agreed to develop and implement a ‘mega surveillance’ network to protect the five million visitors that descended upon the city centre as well as the other event locations.

This was not a case of starting from scratch. For the most part, the cameras and organisation-specific surveillance systems necessary to make it possible were already in place – with each stakeholder able to monitor and manage cameras under their specific operational purview. But, only cameras that are in their purview. That’s what changed.

Feeds and systems were integrated. Fresh capabilities added. And, by the time the summer arrived, authorised members from each organisation could access live footage from a vast network of over 6,000 cameras spread across the region.

Crucially, the introduction of secure web access functionality meant each stakeholder organisation could share vital information and quickly ‘get eyes on’ in response to any incident relating to their event management and support area. It’s not difficult to see the relevance of this project for wider public space protection.

Regardless of region, country or even continent, our towns and cities are always going to be best protected when disparate organisations invested in public safety – police, councils, transport operators and more – work in collaboration with the ability to see and share surveillance footage from each other’s systems. 

Therefore, the same measures can be used to proactively prevent events disruptive to urban life or at least prevent matters from escalating. Remote access and secure evidence sharing can be used to de-escalate minor incidents of anti-social behaviour and quickly detect signs of major organised attacks and respond in a coordinated fashion.

Analytics and automation – making public protection a walk in the park

Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, UK is another good project to focus on in relation to this topic. The Park operator, London Legacy Development Corporation, has transitioned a system developed to secure the biggest show on earth to one focussed on ‘business as usual’ public space protection.

And what a space it is. Developed to host the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is now a free access park that has already welcomed over 34 million people to walk its parklands, attend events and visit sporting venues, including the London Stadium, the London Aquatics Centre and the Copper Box Arena; essentially, to enjoy what is effectively a town in its own right.

A team based out of a central security centre monitor the park’s 560 acres 24/7 for incidents large and small, including trips and slips, missing persons and criminal activity.

Their use of analytics certainly makes the job easier. For instance, if they receive word of a missing child or a suspicious individual, they can rapidly analyse video metadata for colour, height, clothing type etc. to locate the individual in question and flag historical footage which shows their previous movements – footage which can then be used in evidence as required. Without analytics, this task could take hours rather than seconds and minutes.

Similarly, the team combines analytics with their surveillance command and control platform’s rules engine to automate the detection of potential problems. Problems like overcrowding; when a concentration of people exceeds pre-set thresholds or when the number of people rapidly increases in a short time frame (indicating a possible incident), an alert triggers on-screen workflows for the surveillance operatives on duty.

The result? A team with the tools to quickly detect anomalies that require attention and the means to act quickly to coordinate the necessary response.

Similarly, the system can detect unattended packages, suspicious vehicle activity (speed and trajectory) and even loitering behaviours. In each case, analytics-based alerts are linked to appropriate workflows for ensuring the correct protocols are followed.

Once again, the implications for town and city centre control rooms are clear. Quicker incident detection. Faster footage review. Protocol-based guidance linked to live data received. These are all benefits that have the potential to make life much easier for the individuals and teams tasked with keeping our urban spaces safe.

Think big, start small – the biggest benefit of all

The types of technologies outlined in both these examples aren’t bespoke to major events. They are simply modern surveillance tools deployed under a specific set of circumstances. What they enable and the results they help surveillance teams achieve are hugely relevant to CCTV managers and operatives the world over. 

And, crucially, taking inspiration from such examples can be a gradual process. While enabling remote live multi-way surveillance access between various public protection stakeholders for a specific city/region may be the ideal, smaller steps can be taken first.

Introducing a simple cloud-based solution for sharing evidentiary data and footage with authorised users is the perfect starting point for any town or city control room. It puts vital data in the hands of those who need it, quickly and securely. 

And, I think that’s the biggest takeaway from looking at major projects like these. It’s not about replication. It’s about inspiration. About looking at what elements are most transferable for immediate priorities. In this sense, major events can help deliver major benefits to our public surveillance infrastructure. 

By David Aindow, Business Development Director, Synectics

Receive the latest breaking news straight to your inbox