LASERcam4 improves versatility of speed enforcement in London

The Met, as an early adopter of the LASERcam4 and supporting technology from Truvelo (UK), is seeing the benefits of a fast, seamless solution for capturing and addressing speeding offences. The LASERcam4 handheld camera is significantly increasing roadside deployment options, and supporting back office technology is speeding up the violations-handling process whilst guaranteeing its security. 

Across Greater London, the Metropolitan Police Service (‘the Met’) uses a series of automated solutions to address prevalent driving offences. To combat speeding, it employs a mix of static spot and average speed enforcement solutions, as well as mobile cameras.

In the case of the last-mentioned, the Met was one of the UK’s earliest adopters of the latest-generation LASERcam4 from Truvelo (UK). This highly portable and adaptable camera is being used in innovative ways which greatly increase geographic coverage, as it has enabled enforcement teams to evolve from the use of vans to cars and then to mopeds.

Genuine handheld capability

The LASERcam4 offers a series of advantages over earlier generations of handheld cameras. It is a truly handheld, IP55-certified device, which with its integral eight-hour power supply weighs just 1.7kg. This compares very favourably with previous-generation ‘portable’ devices, the battery packs for which were a two-person lift.

The LASERcam4 uses a Class 1 Eye-Safe laser which, with a beam divergence of <1mrad, is effective from 3-750m. It has an acquisition time of 0.3s, and speed accuracy is +/-1mph over a 10-200mph range. Exceptional day and low-light capabilities, including IR enforcement compatibility, are allied to auto-focus, exposure and zoom features.

It can store up to 2,000 offences on its internal memory. These are easily and securely downloadable or transferrable via WiFi or a tethered connection.

LASERcam4 improves versatility of speed enforcement in London

Utilising unpredictability

The advantage of mobile enforcement is its lack of predictability. The driving public rapidly gets used to fixed cameras and their locations. While these can have swift and very positive effects on driver behaviour, they often do little to influence activity on other, nearby roads and can lead to rat-running along routes that are even less suited to high speeds.

The Met combines the use of mobile cameras with press coverage of successful convictions in order to influence behaviour more widely. Driver habits are hard to change in the short-term, so more persistent long-term strategies are the key.

The ruggedised LASERcam4, with its low weight, small form factor and dependable performance, is an ideal solution in this environment as it increases the deployment options available to the Met.

Older, heavier mobile solutions had to be tripod-mounted, which typically meant operating them from a van. That limited the locations to which the Met could deploy. The LASERcam 4 is still used on a tripod but because enforcement teams can deploy using smaller vehicles there are increased parking and siting options.

Considered deployments

Despite the — to the public — apparently random nature of mobile asset deployments, the Met takes great care over the locations it chooses. This is to maximise success and so maintain the assets’ and enforcement strategy’s credibility.

The training of Traffic Officers (TOs) and other enforcement operatives including Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) emphasises that all of the elements around a deployment site must be considered — speed limits must be legal, nearby signage must be clearly visible, and so on.

This policy of not enforcing if circumstances are not 100 percent results in a very low ‘Not Guilty’ rate — something that is also helped by the LASERcam4’s ability to capture images of offending vehicles’ drivers.”

Training of TOs and PCSOs is handled by a core team of 10 trainers, who were in turn trained by Truvelo (UK)’s own team. The number of suitably trained officers now typically enables the Met to deploy the LASERcam4 on each shift, although this does to a degree still depend on staff and equipment availability.

Data-gathering capabilities

The Met chooses deployment locations based on a series of considerations. These include ‘Road of Risk’ data supplied by Transport for London (TfL), numbers of incidents, individual officers’ observations and the concerns raised by residents.

Here, the LASERcam4’s data-gathering capabilities are proving useful.

The camera enables the Met to do the same things as a speed survey — to ascertain whether there is in fact a high non-compliance rate, and whether perceptions match the realities.

The Met stresses that speed enforcement is not all about just ‘catching people’. It is about addressing perceptions at the same time as addressing anti-social activities which affect quality of life, such as sharp acceleration, loud exhaust noise and so on.

Changing and improving driver behaviour is championed over increasing conviction rates. The right information enables the most appropriate courses of action to be decided upon. Between them, the relevant local authorities, TfL and Met TOs can look at a site and decide what infrastructure changes might work best.

Connectivity and efficiency

London benefits from a highly efficient end-to-end violation management capability. This because in addition to the LASERcam4 the Met employs Truvelo Remote Dockers as well as a Truvelo Violation Management System (VMS).

The Remote Docker, several which are located in offices across the Greater London area, features internal computing power combined with a router, onboard GPS and a SIM card. It can be vehicle- or desktop-mounted and enables the remote transfer of violation data securely, robustly and at very high speed into the Central Ticketing Office, where the VMS resides.

The VMS is a state-of-the-art electronic back office solution capable of handling all kinds of traffic-related criminal and civil offences, and the LASERcam4-Docker-VMS chain enables near-instant violation processing.

Given the time limits placed on successful prosecutions, it is important to be able to process potential offences very quickly. Seamless download from the LASERcam4 means that Met operatives can adjudicate the offences that they detect within the same shift.

This method of working is more secure. It replaces the standard operating procedure of many enforcement organisations: producing an evidence bag consisting of a paper evidence sheet and supporting images stored on hard media, all of which has to be physically picked up or delivered, and ultimately put into long-term physical archive.

It also saves money. In the UK, the cost to some organisations of regularly picking up physical evidence from multiple locations amounts to tens of thousands of pounds annually and ties up significant human resource.

Finally, it significantly increases operational and organisational efficiency.

Additional near-term improvements

Enforcement technology requires a major financial investment, and being able to ensure that it is in use as much as possible is hugely beneficial from both public safety and financial accountability perspectives.

The LASERcam4 and its unique supporting infrastructure already provide the Met with a bespoke, class-leading and digitally secure safety enforcement capability, as well as best-possible value for money. However, continued collaboration and ongoing development based on the LASERcam4-Docker-VMS end-to-end solution are bringing even greater improvements.

A near-term deployment option is remote download of offences from the camera via in-vehicle Mobile Dockers, rather than from office locations. This would enable more time on-station for enforcement teams and so even greater operational flexibility and efficiencies.

ANPR Lite is an evolution of the Mobile Docker, and this allows for game-changing integration of the latest generation of miniaturised ‘starlight’ ANPR cameras. This would enable a radical enhancement of enforcement capabilities in low-light conditions and during the hours of darkness. In particular, it would dramatically improve around-the-clock capture of the rear-mounted licence plates on offending motorcycles and mopeds.

Efforts to improve the Met’s mobile solutions’ flexibility are ongoing.

Courtesy of the camera’s extreme portability, the vehicular footprint has already been reduced and LASERcam4 operators now using mopeds to deploy. Two-wheeled transport increases parking and camera siting options even further. The use of backpack-able solutions is also being explored and the ability for on-foot operatives to, for example, disappear onto the Underground and then pop up and be in operation somewhere else very quickly and apparently randomly would be a very powerful enforcement tool.

combat speeding
The Met, as an early adopter of the LASERcam4
LASERcam4 handheld camera