16 May 2011 - source: This is Business - Staffordshire (online)
A STONE bailiffs firm is using a cutting-edge monitoring system to protect its workers after one of them came under attack.
Dukes Bailiffs decided to install the Crystal Ball technology after one of its bailiffs was threatened with axe handles and baseball bats while carrying out a job at a pub.
The company has now had Crystal Ball monitoring products fitted to 31 staff mobile phones and 22 fleet vehicles, allowing it to track employees and company cars.
Features include a panic button, a welfare function and tracking device.
Dukes managing director Colin Naylor, chairman of the national Association of Civil Enforcement Agencies, believes it is the first time a firm of bailiffs has used mobile phone technology in this way.
The company, which was established in 1993, employs 54 full- and part-time staff and operates across the UK, offering recovery, enforcement and tracing services.
Mr Naylor said: "The Crystal Ball system is a marvellous use of modern technology.
"We regularly have situations where debtors dispute that a bailiff has been to their premises or wrongly claim to have rung them on numerous occasions.
"The data which Crystal Ball provides will enable us to effectively resolve these disputes and refute incorrect allegations."
Mr Naylor said the firm decided to install the technology after one of its workers was attacked while making a call at a pub in Runcorn.
He said: "In an incident similar to the one we had recently, where a member of our staff was held against his will by a group of men in a pub, the Lone Worker system would have alerted us and enabled us to raise the alarm."
Crystal Ball's Mobile Monitor and Lone Worker smart phone applications log mobile phone calls and the full transcript of text messages in real time and allow employees' locations to be monitored at all times.
Users are able to pre-set a welfare function on their phone, which notifies colleagues that they are entering a potentially dangerous situation.
If they allow a pre-set timer to run down without responding or acknowledging it, the alarm is automatically raised.
There is also a panic button which activates an emergency response procedure and sends out location co-ordinates.
The system's vehicle tracking technology provides live information, recording speed, journey time, distance and precise location.
Together with the phone monitoring feature it allows the bailiffs to prove they have visited homes and businesses, attempted to deliver legal documents and even had conversations with debtors.
Information is held for three months so it can be downloaded and saved, and used as evidence in disputes or legal proceedings.
Employers can also monitor the information in real time, from anywhere in the world, over the internet.
Raj Singh, managing director of Manchester-based Crystal Ball, said: "The combination of vehicle tracking and smart phone technology is unique in the market and allows bailiffs to address legislation such as duty of care, corporate manslaughter and the proper use of mobile phones while driving.
"It helps staff to enforce and deal with the problems they face on a day-to-day basis, as well as providing indisputable data to help them with their work."