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Eastbourne Businesses are tackling crime in their High Street with a new voice and data radio system installed by Sussex based firm Adur Communications. The Eastbourne Business Crime Reduction Partnership, which currently includes over 100 retail businesses, has authorised the move from a standard radio system to a more modern voice and data system. Designed to promote an all informed anti-crime and safety network the new system is providing up to the minute information to key security personnel on the ground.

The new Radio Messaging System comprising ICOM hand-portables, base station and talk-through repeater, links into a central computer. At the heart of the system is Icom UK’s ‘RMS+ Management Software’. Using Fast Frequency Shift Keying (FFSK) data the RMS+ software allows a control room operator to send text messages regarding criminal activity to individual shops or groups of businesses, Police and CCTV operators in just half a second.

Phil Godbold, of Adur Communications said,’ We were approached by the Eastbourne Business Crime Reduction Partnership in November 2003 to provide plans for upgrading their radio system. We gave them the option of either continuing, with their existing, reasonably efficient Selective Calling system, or taking it forward with a modern, FFSK data system.’

Phil went on to say,’ the new system was developed as a means of getting quick and secure communication between radio users and control. We know that with traditional ‘voice only’ systems radio users often don’t hear messages properly or they may miss important information such as descriptions of shoplifters. With RMS+, users are able to send and receive text messages. These text messages ensure accuracy and may be stored in the radio for ongoing reference. There is also the advantage that shoppers do not overhear sensitive information.' He added 'FFSK is very fast and efficient. Not only do you get shorter calls but with FFSK we have been able to add additional features such as data signalling, status alerts, individual zoned text messaging, individual zoned status alerts. This has allowed us to put a new range of valuable features into their system, making the group much more effective.'

The new system operates on UHF, with two models of hand-portable in use. The ICOM IC-F41 provides more advanced features and is complemented by the more compact IC-F61. The base control radio, IC-F2610 transceiver, is the interface between the radio system and the RMS+ computer software.

Colin Turner, Technical Support Engineer from Icom UK and the author of the RMS+ software explains how it works, ‘To start it is important for the controller to know which users are on the system. With RMS+ it is possible to interrogate the database to see what radios are actually logged on and are being used on that day. This is achieved by decoding the radio’s unique ID at switch on and flagging the user as active on the system. The hand-portables are supplied pre-programmed with text and status messages so users can easily keep the central control room informed of routine operations. All radios carry a red alarm button which is programmed to send an emergency call to all radios indicating the store name that the alarm call has originated from. The alarm call actually puts an alarm flag on the main software. Once appropriate action has been taken, the Arndale Centre controller can cancel the call or the user that set the alarm call can clear down the emergency call. This is all logged, the system is able to identify which radio raised the alarm. Looking at the logs can soon reveal if users are misusing the system by sending out false alarm calls. Remember this is all done by text messaging rather than by voice communication so the system is very efficient.’

Phil said,’ we think that this new system is probably the only PMR shop system in the country that utilises hand-portables for this type of signalling. There may be other FFSK systems out there but generally they are tied to mobiles with display units making them very expensive. The ICOM IC-F61 & IC-F41s have provided a very technically advanced, simple to use package that is going to give a very effective means of security around the centre.

Phil further added, 'It is clear that FFSK provides a method of signalling that is going to be more of an importance as time goes on. The use of text messaging relieves the user from ‘keeping one ear on the radio’ all the time. You can send messages far more securely by FFSK than you can by voice. It is very hard to intercept an FFSK signal and decode it, whereas a simple voice message is in danger of being over heard by a scanner.'

Sandy Hobbs, Business Crime Reduction Manager said, ’the original radio system has been in place for six years, but basically we have just looked at updating the technology. When we saw the advantages that Adur Communications were offering with the text facility and automatic logon we knew it was the system to go for.’

Commenting on the benefits of the new system, Sandy said,’ immediately it has cut down radio traffic - in the mornings by 70%. On the old system everybody had to call up and do a voice log on. This is no longer necessary. There are other benefits, such as descriptions being put out over the radio accurately by text and stored for future reference. Sometimes when shops are busy, messages can be misheard so to put a text message in front of the user means that there is no excuse for miscommunication.‘

She further added,’ should there be an incident in the centre or a lift problem the operators can send a message out to all users as an individual status message. Frequently used messages are pre-stored so the user just has to click on message select and the whole group will get that message. It really is very simple yet very effective.’

Chairman of the group, Bill Plumridge said “This latest initiative will make communication between members of the group more secure and effective - leading to a faster response to incidents within the town. We are delighted that Eastbourne is once again leading the way in terms of security and crime detection”.

The Eastbourne Business Crime Group is a subgroup of the Eastbourne Crime Reduction Partnership, members include Sussex Police, Eastbourne Borough Council and local businesses. The Group has been running for just 6 months but has already achieved the Home Office Safer Shopping Award. Eastbourne is one of the first towns in East Sussex to win this prestigious award.

The Group recently obtained it’s first Anti-Social Behaviour Orders against two persistent offenders and has also issued exclusion notices banning prolific offenders from entering any premises displaying the Red Hand Sign.

As well as town centre businesses, the group has members in Langney, Old Town and Seaside Road. The scheme could eventually cover all of Eastbourne, incorporating non-retail business premises, such as hotels and taxi services.

In addition to arranging exclusion notices against persistent offenders, members can benefit from up to date photographs, training in conflict management, crime prevention advice, regular newsletters and quarterly meetings.

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