More and more CCTV camera systems are springing up on farms as efforts to deter rural theft and damage move into a higher gear. Peter Hill reports on one farm’s installation.
It’s not always easy to explain how someone was “acting suspiciously”. But the driver of the white Discovery making his way slowly around the edge of the farmyard, hugging the buildings in an apparent attempt to avoid being seen from the cottage, clearly was acting suspiciously.
“It was very obvious when he pulled up to have a good look at the diesel pump,” says the anonymous arable farmer who later watched the uninvited visitor tour the yard on his CCTV display. “I was pleased we’d spent a bit more on cameras good enough to record vehicle registration plates.”
A month later, he saw the vehicle again parked up in a local village and contacted the police.
“My suspicions were confirmed when I was told the driver had been detained for some offence or other,” says the farmer.
In the first instance, CCTV camera systems are installed as a deterrent; to put the thought into the minds of those up to no good that they, or their vehicles, could be recorded and identified. But thought needs to be given to their positioning.
“It took some time to come up with a network that would cover the two entrances to the farm, the large yard and an area in front of buildings to the rear of the grain store and also inside buildings, like the workshop,” says David Thurston from Abingdon CCTV specialist 4sight, which provided the equipment. “But since we have access to a range of cameras with different capabilities, we were able to come up with a system that covers all angles.”
|David Thurston of 4Sight with one of the more discretely installed infra-red CCTV cameras.|
There are, of course, plenty of recorded events that show quite legitimate vehicle and people movements, as well as the occasional uninvited visitor. These are easily identified by a quick review of file sizes saved for up to 30 days before the hard drive re-writes.
A bonus is that the system can be accessed via the internet, which means the remote yard can be scanned from the farm office about a couple of miles away, as well as from the adjoining cottage where the system is housed.
DIY installation is feasible but, given farm conditions, an experienced installer is recommended.
“A firm of electrical engineers rather than CCTV experts install our systems because it’s a challenging environment,” says Mr Thurston. “They use armoured telecoms cable to guard again rodent attack, fit power boosters where cable runs are more than 50m from the 12v power supply to keep the image sharp and know to avoid potential sources of interference, such as high voltage supplies, air conditioning systems, and the like.”
The £2900 all-in cost of the arable farm installation has been offset to some degree by a reduction in insurance premiums.
Most cameras in the network have 6mm lenses giving a decent image up to 20m or so away; the 3.6mm cover a wide angle with close proximity and are good for confined spaces, especially indoors. Cameras mounted within easy reach of the ground are housed in tough tamper-proof housings with all wiring enclosed.
The colour images switch to monochrome supported by infra-red lights surrounding the lens as dusk arrives and two 60mm cameras in box housings, which cover the two entrances in the yard, are focused to give clear recordings of vehicle registration numbers.
“The main objective of the system is to make anyone think twice about stealing tools, diesel, vehicles or machinery,” says the farmer. “But it’s good to know we’re collecting evidence if anything does happen.”
Pulling up the driveway image to full size would clearly reveal a vehicle’s registration number.