As Gorleston CCTV celebrates 10 years here's how you can get involved
PUBLISHED: 08:00 09 February 2018 | UPDATED: 12:53 09 February 2018
Archant Norfolk 2018
For 10 years it has provided a vital extra set of eyes over Gorleston, like guardian angels surveying the town.
Now, as the CCTV programme in Gorleston celebrates a decade of producing irrefutable evidence for police, an appeal has been launched for new volunteers to help it continue its work for years to come.
As part of its anniversary celebrations, this newspaper was given an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at how the volunteer-led operation works.
Inside the base - which was provided free of charge to Gorleston CCTV by Pleasure Beach managing director Albert Jones - an array of computer screens display footage from the system’s 10 different cameras.
A volunteer equipped with direct radio link to on-duty police officers then monitor the screens, alerting officers to any ongoing incidents or untoward activity.
Pinned on noticeboards around the walls are the faces of wanted individuals, or those with active criminal behaviour orders, with the eagle-eyed volunteers also on alert. Volunteers can also be called upon to review previous incidents, allowing for extra scope and a level of detail that otherwise may have been unfeasible.
PC Lee Howell, operations officer for the service, said: “We want to keep this really useful operation going and can’t do that without our dedicated volunteers.
“This is one of the only units of its kind and has doubled in size and has been a real success story.”
The cameras were initially set up in 2007, however, it was not until May 2008 the first volunteers were recruited to the scheme.
A decade on, the team has around 15 members who each work three-hour voluntary shifts, between them monitoring the cameras between 9am and 5pm Monday to Friday.
The volunteers range between 23 and 82 years old, with both men and women getting involved - although any prospective volunteer must be 18 or over.
One of the volunteers, who has been involved since the very beginning, gives up more than 20 hours of her time every week and said the team had become like a family. She said: “There is a social side to it - you get to know the other volunteers and develop bonds. However, most importantly it really feels like you are giving something back to your community.”
The programme offers a crucial resource for the town’s police - particularly when it comes to curbing anti-social behaviour.
PC Howell said: “When the cameras were installed on Magdalen Way and Shrublands, for example, we saw a staggering fall in the number of incidents of anti-social behaviour. Around a 70pc drop. Knowing a camera is there provides such a big deterrent.”
Inspector Donald Dallas, of Gorleston Police, said: “The programme provides such a crucial resource for us and I cannot thank the volunteers enough for their time and hard work. Not only does volunteering help us though, it provides the volunteers with a sense of purpose and new skills that could well prove useful in other walks of life. It’s a really successful operation and it would be really great if we could attract some more volunteers to come forward and help their community.”
PC Richard Bladon, beat manager for Gorleston, added: “It is like an extended part of the police family. There is so much we would not be able to achieve without it.”
The drive for new volunteers has also been prompted by growth in the town’s night-time economy, with arrivals of new businesses likely to increase the number of people on the streets.
The police are hoping in the coming months it will become possible for the centre to be operated on Friday and Saturday nights, in addition to its current operating times. Volunteers must have a certain level of proficiency using computers, but will also be provided with specific training for the role.
Anybody interested in getting involved as a volunteer should email firstname.lastname@example.org. To watch a video of the CCTV in operation visit our website at www.greatyarmouth.co.uk
CCTV success stories
In its 10 years, the CCTV operation has been able help police in solving a considerable number of case - both retrospectively and while incidents are occurring.
One such case saw a police officer mown down by a motorist in Gorleston town centre. Officers were able to use the footage to efficiently identify the vehicle and trace the driver.
Another incident saw a volunteer successful locate a vulnerable missing person, who had left the James Paget University Hospital. The volunteer spotted the man on the screens and immediately alerted police before the person could cause any harm to themselves.
A third incident in which the volunteers ensured a lightning reaction from officers involved spotting a motorist pulling alongside another driver and throwing a petrol bomb from their window. Again, the volunteer immediately alerted police, and the footage was available to be used as evidence.