THE success of a trial by Falmouth police could result in ‘body worn’ cameras being used across Devon and Cornwall to reduce violent and alcohol-related crime.
The three-month pilot, the first of its kind in the counties, showed that the use of cameras worn on police uniforms reduced the number of violent crimes resulting in injury by 42 per cent.
The video evidence, captured in the trial throughout August, September and October last year in Falmouth town centre, was also identified as a “key factor” in encouraging guilty pleas and securing convictions.
The use of the Body Worn Video Devices (BWVD) also helped increase detection rates, acted as a deterrent and made members of the public feel safer at night, police said.
Project leader PC Chris Vincent said the video footage can also change behaviour.
“During interview we are able to show people exactly how they behaved during the incident and how that impacted on other people,” said PC Vincent.
“It gives them the whole picture rather than just their view, which helps to improve their behaviour in future.
“It just makes people think twice about their actions and the repercussions of those actions.”
During the trial, the cameras captured evidence during and after offences, with footage of an offender’s demeanour immediately after an incident used as supporting evidence.
In four out of five cases, video evidence from the cameras was used to support official action, such as a charge to court or restorative justice.
A police spokesman said: “Evidence capture is a key factor in encouraging guilty pleas and also securing convictions.”
Nine out of ten police officers said the cameras were “efficient and useful” in gathering evidence.
The majority of officers who took part in the trial said the cameras acted as a deterrent, or people tended to “calm down” and respond more quickly to police requests when they knew they were being filmed.
In one personal example, PC Vincent said those involved “were shouting and hollering and being abusive.
“As soon as I told them I was wearing a camera, they took a step back, looked at the camera, realised they were being filmed and calmed right down.”
The evaluation of results of the scheme showed the total number of recorded crimes had gone up because more non-violent crimes were detected.
PC Vincent said: “More and more offences are being detected. This means we have a positive outcome.”
Three quarters of members of the public surveyed about the trial said the use of BWVDs would make them feel safer in town at night.
PC Vincent said the evaluation results were “very positive”.
Last year’s trial followed a test of helmet-mounted cameras in Plymouth in 2007.