Knowsley Neighbourhood Warden’s ICOM Radio System
Knowsley Neighbourhood Warden Scheme has invested in a radio management system (I-Track) which is now providing real benefits to the local community and helping to make Knowsley a safer place. I-Track is a personnel management tracking system using GPS mapping linked into a two-way radio system to fully allow the monitoring of the warden’s movements during their working day.
The scheme allows managers to communicate effectively with their wardens via text, voice and status messaging as well as providing movement details. The system has been supplied and installed by Northwest Radio of Liverpool.
Dave Watkinson, scheme manager said, ‘Across the borough, there are now a total of 110 Neighbourhood Wardens, divided into teams operating in six different areas of the borough.
The primary purpose of this scheme is to help reduce crime. The wardens wear a highly visible uniform whilst patrolling, on foot, in pairs. Their presence reassures residents and reduces the fear of crime.
They are not police officers and nor do they have any formal powers but they do work very closely with the police and various agencies. Each team has to look after approximately 12 -14,000 homes, as there are 82,000 homes in the borough!
I-Track system Comprised of Two Parts
I-Track software runs on a standard personal computer. This is connected to the base station radio. The system produces data showing warden’s position at any time. It is also possible to track their movement history, all of which is overlaid, on a Microsoft land cartography display.
ITrack keeps a historical database of movement, giving the scheme the ability to prove the location of wardens at a set time.
The second part of the system is the personal radio equipment used by the wardens. This is based on the IC-F61, a lightweight UHF handheld transceiver, and a remote speaker/microphone with built-in GPS (worn on the warden’s lapel).
In addition, an IC-F610 mobile transceiver is used as a Base Control unit to send voice messages as well as text and status messages to each employee.
An IC-F610 base station is used for each of the six individual schemes. In addition, each manager’s vehicle has an IC-F610 mobile transceiver installed. Combination antennas are used on the vehicles to pick up the GPS messages.
The I-Track radio system is set up for text and data messaging as well as voice. The use of short, predefined messages can reduce the need for long, voice conversations making the system much more efficient.
For example, the status-messaging facility on the radio can store 20 regularly used status messages e.g. DOOR OFF would equate to a panel of a lamppost that has been pulled off.
LIGHT OUT might equate to a street lamp that isn’t working. SHARPS for exposed needles. In addition, a second voice only channel has been incorporated so that the Wardens can contact Knowsley Security.
Knowsley Now Have 10 Radio’s
Knowsley Security themselves have ten IC-F61 radios for their staff and seven IC-F610 mobiles installed in their patrolling vehicles.
Dave Watkinson scheme manager said, ‘each warden receives 3 weeks of intensive training on all issues before starting their duties. Half a day is given to radio training so that all wardens are taught radio etiquette and procedures. Each warden is given a call sign and will be expected to use correct radio protocols.
He added, ‘The wardens work a two-shift pattern, either 8 am to 4 pm or 2 pm to 10 p.m, Monday to Friday. At the beginning of the shift, each warden is assigned a radio that they have to check and sign for. It is their responsibility to ensure the radio is placed in the overnight charger.
It is a supervisor’s responsibility to ensure that all radios are in charge.’
David said, ‘ Wardens patrol in pairs, for health and safety reasons, and share a radio between them. Normally wardens patrol for two and a half-hours before having their break.
More often than not the wardens will have their break in the community. In the past, before we had this system, this presented the manager with a problem, as we never knew where the wardens were.
We, therefore, asked the wardens to radio in every 20 minutes to keep us informed of where they were. Now, I-Track tells us exactly where the Neighbourhood Wardens are by polling them regularly without the need to contact them via voice communication.
Radio Traffic Down
This has cut radio traffic down by 80%. In addition, if the warden faces any sort of problem such as antisocial behaviour, they have the option of sending their information more accurately by status messaging, voice communication and their GPS location.’
David added, ‘Knowsley has one of the highest levels of social deprivation in the country. As such it received funding to become one of the first trials of a Neighbourhood Wardens scheme in the UK in 2001. Originally, it had only 8 Neighbourhood Wardens.
In the following 2 years, we have added 4 more schemes and have added 40 more users. Last year the scheme received a grant to increase the number of wardens from 40 to 110.
David said, ‘Every 6 weeks I give a presentation to the local community and local council officials. I have to show what has been achieved. I-Track has made my job so much easier as it provides an audit trail. The radio system has made us open and transparent, yet sustainable.
Now we are moving to council funding, I will have to prove to people what we have achieved. I-Track can achieve this. It is because of the reporting aspects of I-Track that other lone worker schemes around the country are now looking at this technology.’
Commenting on the service they have received from Northwest Radio, Dave said, ‘they have been absolutely excellent. Their advice and technical support has been incredible. They even applied to Ofcom for us for our licence. That was really appreciated, as that process can be daunting.’
Ian Lockyer, Marketing Manager for Icom (UK) Ltd said, ‘ I-Track offers significant benefits to organisations through improved communications and improved security. Today, organisations have to be more security conscious. Whether in an industry where operatives face daily abuse or even attack, I-Track can be used to pinpoint the exact location of your operative and can also instruct a nearby colleague to assist.”