TESTING has started on Barnsley town centre’s new £700,000 CCTV system which is set to provide high-definition images to boost safety.

The overhaul was approved by Barnsley Council’s ruling cabinet members in January, and will result in 43 cameras being replaced with modern versions before March next year.

The first swapover was completed last week and, according to the council, it is now up and running.

The old surveillance system, which has been in-situ for more than 15 years, uses analogue technology with obsolete equipment, meaning the quality of images can be too poor to identify those pictured and potentially wanted in connection to a crime.

They also have to be moved manually by Doncaster-based operators but the new system will enable 360-degree coverage and potential new ‘monitoring hubs’ based at the town centre’s police station, the council’s Westgate office and potentially at The Glass Works when it’s completed.

Mark Giles, manager of the Safer Neighbourhood Service, said: “It’s an excellent step in the right direction and I’m pleased to say that everything went to plan during the test. We now have a new, high-definition camera installed and are ready for the next stage of testing prior to full implementation.

“The old cameras offer a limited field of view and rely on operator input to identify and monitor ongoing incidents. Each camera only covers the direction in which it is facing offering approximately 45 degrees of coverage from each column location at any given time.

“Modern technology offers wider coverage and the ability for analytics in order to support the development of Barnsley into a ‘Smart City’.

“The quality of recorded images will therefore allow for excellent quality retrospective viewing. The quality will be good enough for the identification of offenders when required.”

At each column location there will also be a second camera installed that allows full pan, tilt and zoom functionality, according to a council report. This can be operator-controlled or can be automatically controlled utilising video feeds from the 360-degree camera.

Mark added: “CCTV forms a large part of the reduction in crime and disorder, however in order to have maximum impact within this specific topic the recorded footage needs to be of useable quality.

“While CCTV does not offer a physical barrier or limit people from certain areas it does form a situational crime prevention solution, however this can only be achieved by the successful use of recorded data. For successful use the recorded data must meet the evidential criteria required and as such, this upgrade will support this.

“The upgraded CCTV system will provide 75 per cent more coverage per current camera location, as such this will have an impact on health, safety and emergency resilience.”