How we did it

Fed up with vandalism, headteacher Jonathan Sides found a solution - using CCTVfootage to shame the culprits My predecessor had already had a lot of trouble with local youths. Teachers taking children to a playing field next to the school had to put up with gangs shouting abuse and using foul language. The school was also having trouble with skateboarders who attracted a regular band of ne'er-do-wells and the place started to be trashed. There were break-ins, broken windows and graffiti.

When I arrived as head last September, vandalism continued through the winter. Inevitably, we'd have no evidence to offer the police. You'd arrive in the morning to find that two or three big windows had been smashed, costing hundreds of pounds to repair. I got fed up having letters back from the police saying they'd investigated this as far as they could and were nowhere near prosecuting.

Then I was contacted by a company that installs CCTV security systems. I liked the sound of what it was offering. I put the idea to members of the school management team, who agreed that it sounded a good idea. After having two cameras on trial, the governors decided it was worth investing fully.

At Easter we had six cameras installed and security lights put on the buildings, so you couldn't get anywhere without being picked up by at least one camera. We realised that what we needed urgently was a prosecution and publicity to let everybody know.

Within a week a couple of youths came on to the site and tried to vandalise a camera by throwing a skateboard at it. The skateboard got stuck on the roof, so one of them climbed on to the roof to retrieve it. While he was there he had a good bash at the camera, knocking the whole housing out of its mounting. But the camera was still working - it was filming his mate the whole time, and another camera was filming him.

I came into school, saw the damage and called the police. I looked at the video footage - the images were extremely sharp. I took stills of the culprits and put them up around the school. Then I wrote to parents and asked if they could help identify them.

In no time we had positive identifications - names and addresses, and they were arrested. One of them was reprimanded.

The following weekend we were burgled by another youth who smashed his way in through a window and emptied charity boxes. We picked him up on all six cameras, put up stills and wrote to parents. We had five positive identifications and he has been arrested. It is naming and shaming, but that's not the purpose of it. We wanted the cameras to act as a deterrent. The message was: this building is protected by CCTV. If you vandalise our school, you'll be filmed.

In the beginning, the children would wave at the cameras. Now they've forgotten they are there.

Interview by Martin Whittaker

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