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Fight-sensing cameras to cut crime on Britain’s streets

12 February 2015

CCTV cameras

A million-pound project to develop 'smart' cameras that sense violence on the streets is being developed by Cardiff University researchers.

Computer science and violence experts are teaming up with technology specialists from Airbus Group to develop a system that will spot trouble brewing and guide police before anyone gets hurt.

The study will develop imaging technology which will automatically alert CCTV operators when fights are detected on city centre cameras.

"Smart" CCTV already exists and can count people and identifying cars. But the Cardiff project will go further by analysing night time crowds to provide 'real time' alerts, helping to prevent serious injury and reducing costs to health services.

Professor Simon Moore, from Cardiff University's Violence and Society Research Group, said: "Developing 'smart' camera technology that can pinpoint violence is a really cost effective way of helping police to do their jobs. Officers can't monitor hundreds of city centre CCTV cameras all the time.

"By using imaging technology, officers will be alerted to violence 'hotspots' in real-time, helping to further reduce violence. It's a great way of using technology to make the streets safer for all of us."

Professor David Marshall, from the University's Computer Science School, added: "This work builds on an active collaboration with the Violence and Society Research Group and research expertise in video analysis. Detecting violence from CCTV camera footage presents some interesting technical challenges due to the time of day (night time), the need to operate in all weather conditions, camera positions and recognising people's often complex activities in such footage."

The project is a partnership between Cardiff University, Airbus Group (formerly EADS) and the Welsh Government. Airbus is developing the technological infrastructure, whilst the Welsh Government is providing funding.

Fights on the street cost the taxpayer millions of pounds each year. The Home Office estimates that an average violence incident costs more than £33,000 in NHS and criminal justice costs, lost working hours, and the impact on victims.

The project is backed by the Association of Chief Police Officers. Adrian Lee, Chief Constable of Northamptonshire and ACPO lead for alcohol and licensing said: "As austerity continues in policing it is important that we work together with academia to develop an evidence base of knowledge to ensure officers and resources are deployed as effectively as possible. I am delighted to support this research by Professor Simon Moore and his team which will hopefully identify ways to automatically predict potential disorder in the night time economy so we can deploy officers to it before it happens.'

Gary Clayton, of EADS Foundation Wales, said: "We are proud to continue our track record of supporting innovation within the region. By backing world class research from Cardiff University, we are excited by the potential to build better local communities."

The project has grown out of original research work carried out by Kaelon Lloyd, a PhD student in the University's School of Computer Science and informatics.

Mr Lloyd said: "As a research student, I was involved in developing software that assisted CCTV observers with the identification of violence by modelling scene dynamics. The experience helped me understand the positive impact that video analysis holds for society; this insight, combined with the number of interesting technical challenges was highly motivating and pushed me to undertake further research in the field, providing focus for my undergraduate dissertation which led to my PhD research."

The project dovetails with the Welsh Government's Vibrant and Viable Places regeneration framework for town centres, coastal communities and Communities First areas.