Thursday, June 16, 2011

Bus Cameras Help Catch Killers

Images captured on CCTV by the city’s bus fleet have helped solve some of Glasgow’s most horrific crimes.

Police are now using the cameras as a new weapon in the fight against serious crime.

Earlier this year the Evening Times revealed 430 buses operated by First are each equipped with up to 13 CCTV cameras.

They have been installed in a bid to cut violence and vandalism on vehicles operated by the company.

But the police are increasingly making use of CCTV cameras on buses which point out into city streets to solve offences like murder and serious assault.

One of the most horrific was the murder of Moira Jones in 2008. Her body was found in Queen’s Park.

First security manager Alan Pert joined the company in 2002 after working as a police inspector.

He now heads a a specialist analysis unit which includes three former CID officers.

Mr Pert was brought in by First to tackle the problem of yobs who each year were smashing up to 8000 bus windows by throwing stones.

He said: “It was costing us an absolute fortune – over £1 million a year.”

The introduction of CCTV on buses in 2003 meant not only could people causing trouble on board be identified, but the vandals throwing stones were also caught on camera.

But CCTV also picked up other incidents happening on the streets as buses drove past.

In 2008, police investigating the murder of Moira Jones approached First and asked to see film recorded by buses passing Queen’s Park.

Mr Pert said: “One of our buses was passing and picked up images of Moira Jones and the murderer together as he was taking her to the park.

“The images were able to give them a clue to the build and height of the guy.”

The incident was recorded as the bus drove past Queen’s Park at 11.31pm on May 28, 2008 – the evening before the semi-naked body of Ms Jones was found in the park.

First’s involvement in helping convict Slovakian drifter Marek Harcar of the murder resulted in a letter of commendation from Strathclyde Police.

The company has also received commendations for helping out in a number of other major investigations.

First was also asked to check CCTV from its buses during the hunt for Polish student Angelika Kluk, whose body was eventually discovered in St Patrick’s RC Church in Anderston.

She was murdered and raped by Peter Tobin, who was sentenced to life imprisonment and ordered to serve a minimum 21 years behind bars.

Mr Pert said: “We are now approached by the police on a daily basis for help with crimes from murder to robbery. In March this year alone we got 32 requests from the police.”

Video footage taken at the time and place of an incident is passed to detectives who can then go through it in detail looking for anything which may be useful to the investigation.

Mr Pert insisted it is a two way trade and the police are called in to help First if there is an incident on a bus.

He explained: “Earlier this year we were involved with the police when a chap was stabbed in the back while on a bus at Tollcross.

“CCTV evidence gave clear evidence of the person responsible and the gang he was with.”

As well as requests for help from the police, the bus company’s CCTV unit deals with hundreds of other requests each month for film relating to road accidents or incidents on board buses.

Mr Pert said: “Our biggest problem is with school kids congregating round a bus pushing each other to get on.

“Drivers are worried that one of the kids could fall and go under the wheel so we take the CCTV footage to the school and ask for assistance.

“I look forward to the summer holidays when the schools are off and we get a bit of a respite.”

A police spokesman said: “Investigating officers will use all tools at their disposal to help them when working a case.

“Images obtained from CCTV, including First Bus, have aided officers on many cases, including major investigations.”