Articles by Alasdair Field
Amongst the many negative consequences of the pandemic is a rise in violent and abusive behavior across society. Health workers have experienced it on a regular basis. So too have police officers and public transport workers. Unfortunately, violence and abuse towards shop workers is also endemic in British society. To address this problem which, in truth, has been on the rise since long before the emergence of COVID-19, we need better deterrents. The ability to prosecute these offenses is one such deterrent, but just as important is the ability to deescalate situations before they spill over into unacceptable or unlawful behavior. Major retail customers In both instances, organizations of all sizes are now recognizing that the answer could involve greater use of rapidly advancing body worn camera technology. Andy Marsh, the Chief Constable of Avon and Somerset Police, is one of the police officers responsible for introducing body worn cameras to the UK police force, where they are now in widespread use. Andy Marsh is one of the police officers responsible for introducing body worn cameras to the UK police force He explains that “The reason the majority of people don’t speed or drink-drive is that rational human beings weigh up the risk and consequences of breaking the law and getting caught. Body worn cameras help provide appropriate ‘desistance’, especially where there are forward-facing screens so the person interacting with the wearer can see themselves and their behavior.” Evidence shows that if a forward-facing camera is switched on before the intervention becomes hostile, it will generally lead to a de-escalation – as often as 90% of the time, according to one of our major retail customers. Digital evidence investigations Only a tiny handful of abusive incidents ever translate into arrests and prosecutions. A key issue is a lack of clear evidence – how to get past the usual impasse of one person’s word against the other. Body worn cameras break the deadlock and allow organizations to report incidents to the police with confidence, knowing that they will lead to action. Marsh suggests that “We usually see an earlier admission, an earlier guilty plea and a more appropriate sentence, where body worn camera footage is in play.” The technology has come on in leaps and bounds in recent years. For example, it’s now possible to record high-definition footage on a lightweight device that’s barely the size of a palm. And it’s not just about the evidence organizations gather themselves. Many police forces are looking at ways to make it easier for businesses and the public to collaborate on digital evidence investigations. Body worn cameras This is good for the victims of crime because it means we get the evidence more quickly" “We’ve created an online crime portal in Avon and Somerset which people can use to pass digital evidence and material to us without an officer having to attend their premises. This is good for the victims of crime because it means we get the evidence more quickly and can take action more swiftly to resolve that issue,” adds Marsh. Our body worn cameras can now even support facial recognition thanks to new, smart AI on the devices themselves, which can scan and process faces within a three-meter distance against a pre-defined database of people (which we call a watchlist). Any matches trigger alerts or additional camera activity such as recording and streaming, while the facial recognition data of people not on the watchlist itself is not recorded or saved to assuage privacy concerns. Similar criminal behavior Where could this technology come in handy? Well, staff at gambling venues or in-store retail workers could undoubtedly benefit from the ability to quickly spot known fraudsters or addicts who have requested that venues refuse their custom. Stewards at mass sporting events could play a key role in helping to identify people who have been banned from attending. The primary reason for using body worn cameras is to increase the safety of frontline workers The primary reason for using body worn cameras is to increase the safety of frontline workers, deescalating confrontations and limiting the use of force. AI-powered facial recognition can also serve this purpose by helping them make better-informed choices about how to handle specific situations. For example, it is a massive advantage to police officers on the beat to understand that the person they are dealing with may have a history of similar criminal behavior. Facial recognition technology But it’s also an advantage within retail, where aggressive incidents are on the rise and staff need all the help they can get to determine what an appropriate response should be to a particular customer incident. In fact, extensive consultation with our retail, police, transport and gambling customers indicates that introducing facial recognition technology to body worn cameras could be instrumental, not just in helping to prevent crime, but in tracking down vulnerable and missing people too. Of course, facial recognition technology has to be balanced against the need to protect the privacy of ordinary citizens. Video recording using body worn cameras has to be done proportionately – the same is true for the use of facial recognition technology. The technology also has to be compliant with GDPR, Data Protection, the Information Commissioners recommendations and so on. Positive working environment Violent and abusive incidents affect everyone in the immediate vicinity and create a culture of fear Importantly, it should be for a specific, proportionate and justifiable reason which, of course, means it should never be used for indiscriminate mass surveillance. Every organization using this technology must remember that a facial recognition system match is not proof of someone’s identity, but rather, an indication of likelihood to help inform the user rather than dictate the course of action. Violent and abusive incidents affect everyone in the immediate vicinity and create a culture of fear and apprehension. This is why it’s so important to get on top of the problem – both on a societal and at an organizational level. Body worn cameras have a vital role to play, as an evidence-gathering tool and as a deterrent that empowers the wearer and creates a more positive working environment. Deterring unlawful behavior One of the critical roles these cameras play is in staff training, providing real-world video evidence that can be used to educate and upskill workers across a variety of industries. Society’s problem with abusive and violent behavior cannot be solved by technology alone. But with exceptional quality camera footage now a reality, and the possibility of AI technology at the device level in real-time, body worn cameras will only get better at deterring unlawful behavior and helping to protect hardworking frontline staff. Alasdair Field is CEO of video technology provider Reveal, which works with UK police forces and major brands such as Matalan, JD Sports and Boots to help them improve staff safety, deescalate confrontations and reduce violent and abusive incidents.
In the wake of an unprecedented increase in reports of violence and abuse towards frontline workers, body worn video systems provider, Reveal Media and lone worker protection specialists Peoplesafe have entered into a strategic partnership to provide public-facing workers with a body camera solution designed to record all incidents. Initially adopted by the police force, body worn video technology is starting to be adopted by other industries, from healthcare providers such as ambulance staff through to retail and security workers. Real-Time visual information Unlike traditional lone working devices - which are designed to be discreet - body cameras are deliberately obvious to deter potential aggressors from being verbally or physically aggressive. The combined technology enhances protection by adding real-time visual information to any incident. Once a wearer raises an SOS alarm on their Peoplesafe Pro lone worker app (via their smartphone), the camera will start recording the incident. The combined technology enhances protection by adding real-time visual information to any incident “Working with members of the public can be unpredictable, particularly for lone workers who are often viewed as easy targets for physical and verbal abuse” explains Naz Dossa, CEO of Peoplesafe. “Wearing a body camera, combined with our Peoplesafe Pro lone worker app, is proving extremely effective in changing people’s behavior, reducing the likelihood of an assault on the wearer.” Personal safety alarms Alasdair Field, CEO at Reveal Media adds; “Pairing a lone worker service to body worn video technology adds a new dimension of safety for frontline workers as it provides direct access to emergency support. We are committed to protecting key workers and having the support of a fully accredited, 24/7 Alarm Receiving Center in addition to our cameras will not only help us further improve our service, it will also add an extra layer of security and reassurance.” “As the market leading provider of body worn video in the UK, Reveal Media is well equipped to provide the best visual protection for our frontline workers.” UK based technology business, Peoplesafe is the provider of GPS personal safety alarms and applications for more than 150,000 at-risk and lone workers across both public and private sectors. Combining this service with Reveal Media’s body worn video technology will provide a failsafe solution to what is becoming an increasingly prevalent problem.
Body worn camera provider Reveal is expecting a significant rise in new customers following the lockdown as non-essential retailers prepare for another surge in violent and abusive incidents. Growing fears around shopworkers' safety have led 69 retail leaders to petition the Prime Minister asking for it become a statutory offense to assault, threaten or abuse a shopworker in England or Wales, following the introduction of similar legislation in Scotland. High street brands The letter, signed by retail luminaries such as Primark, John Lewis, and JD Sports, cites a worrying increase in violent in-store customer incidents. It references a 600% increase in incidents at one retailer due to the implementation of COVID restrictions, while almost 1,000 violent incidents were recorded in a single week at another retailer after face coverings were made compulsory. Reveal has seen an 80% increase in retail customers since the beginning of the pandemic More than £1 billion has been invested by the retail sector in new crime prevention measures such as body worn cameras in the last year. Reveal has seen an 80% increase in retail customers since the beginning of the pandemic. Boots is currently trialing its body worn cameras within several Birmingham branches, while JD Sports is among high street brands preparing to equip staff with Reveal’s technology when its shops reopen. Body worn camera JD Sports’ former profit protection manager Stephen Valentine said: “Retail workers have faced a growing tirade of abuse in recent years which has been fully intensified by the pandemic. Body worn cameras are going to be vital in protecting and reassuring staff as we come out of this lockdown.” “Simply the presence of a body worn camera can often be enough to deter abuse and deescalate what could otherwise be a very difficult situation. The trials JD Sports has run show that staff feel so much safer in dealing with potentially aggressive customers as a result of wearing a camera. There can be no greater return on investment than providing this level of protection.” Proactively putting measures Alasdair Field, CEO of Reveal, said: “Everyone should be able to go to work without the fear of being abused or assaulted, and ultimately it is every retail employer’s responsibility to protect their staff. We are working with dozens of leading employers that are committed to this cause and are proactively putting measures in place to prevent attacks on their teams.” Everyone should be able to go to work without the fear of being abused or assaulted" “What we’ve learnt from many years of working with the police, government and health sectors is that front-facing body worn cameras provide support, reassurance, and confidence to both staff and the public. They are proven to reduce complaints, increase safety and limit the use of force and these are essential elements in boosting the recovery of the UK’s high streets in the post-COVID world.” Expanding business further Reveal was founded in 2002 by former broadcast engineer Field and has risen to become a pioneer amongst police forces, prisons, and local governments worldwide. In recent years, the London-headquartered company has further cemented its reputation as the go-to supplier of body worn cameras and video systems across multiple sectors, following continued growth within health, education, and retail. Reveal, which currently operates a network of offices in the UK, Germany, USA, and Hong Kong, is also set to expand further internationally throughout 2021.