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CCTV net is closing in on the criminals.

Byline: By LUKE TRAYNOR

NEW CCTV cameras are set to see hundreds more criminals caught.

A pounds 100,000 control room equipped with hi-tech digital technology is bringing together the network of cameras already covering Wirral.

Operators revealed the centre had already helped save three lives since it was opened this month.

They spotted three bathers floating out to sea near Egre-mont Promenade on an inflatable.

Among a variety of other incidents was a runaway horse and a samurai sword-wielding man in a domestic dispute.

All three incidents were successfully dealt with by the emergency services.

The digital headquarters was launched at the Cheshire Lines building in Hamilton Square, Birkenhead, which is manned 24 hours a day.

Operators said the CCTV network had already led to a huge increase in the number of arrests made in Wirral and resulted in more successful prosecutions at cour t.

Over the past eight months, more than 600 pieces of evidence have been handed over to Mersey-side police by Wirral council.

Visits from detectives have also risen, with some officers routinely attending the suite several times a day.

The control room is linked to 108 cameras throughoutWirral, anumber which rocketed since 1997, with the borough had onlylO.

ChfInspJohn Holmes, from Mer-seyside police, said: "It's a big step forward as the images produced ar of an evidenti quality for pr secution.

"It gives us an eye in the sky and, in essence, it's like having another 108 police officers on the streets of Wirral.

"It leads to more successful prosecutions and gives us early heads up on any incidents that might be occurring."

John Kenny, control room manager, said: "It's a hugely beneficial resource and allows us to better monitor and detect what's happening on the stre ets.

"In the case of the bathers, the cameras potentially saved their lives as they had drifted so far out and the water was over their heads.

"The advantages are wide ranging as we record road collisions, car crime, cash-in-transits, and shoplifting offences during the day and alcohol-related disorder in the evenings."

The move is a further tonic for the growing CCTV network across Merseyside widely acknowledged as the best in the country

The new digital system saves valuable time as it allows operators to identify the cor-k rect footage within seconds without having to trawl through hours of CCTV tapes.

uketraynor@liverpooho.co.uk

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INVALUABLE: CCTV footage is now used as evidence' BIG STEP: Chf Insp John Holmes
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Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Nov 20, 2006
Words:413
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